What is your Treasure?

aarrearkkuLast week I was given the privilege of teaching at the Youth Service here in Brussels. I am finding more and more that I love to teach the Bible, and that I am pretty good at it. Well, I just wanted to share it on here, like I did in the spring when I taught, so others could read it as well. Share this with others you think might need to hear it or would appreciate it.

What is your Treasure?

Main Idea:  If we were to truly savor and treasure Jesus Christ, how much differently would our lives look?

Matt 13:44 – “The kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only have 3 things with you, what would you have?
There are things that we cannot live without right? How about in your everyday life. Are their certain things you cannot live without?
Phones, Internet, Facebook, Music, TV, Certain People?
How much do we love these things?

Do you love them as much as the things of God?
Community, Prayer, Reading the Bible, Memorization, Fasting, Righteousness, Holiness?
Or do you love them more?

I am right there with you. I love movies and TV shows, so there is judgement here. I am constantly listening to music, and its not always Christian music. I can literally talk about TV and music for hours. I have wasted many days binge watching Netflix.
But can we do that with the Lord. Can you binge read the Bible for a whole day? Can you spend an entire day with the Lord in prayer and study? Meditating on his Word and memorizing passages?
What would you do with an entire free day – free from obligation and commitments? Would you fill it with the things of the Lord or with the things of the World?

Yes, its true that all of these things are not sinful, we we must evaluate these things based on the Bible and not just our own reasoning.
First – Evaluate if the things you are watching or doing are promoting Christ or the World.
This is a HUGE problem with TV and music – most shows are, at best, indifferent to sin, if not promoting it. We must guard what we allow in our lives regarding the worlds view of sin, or we can begin to become indifferent to sin as well.
Second – Maybe its not promoting sin – but in 1 Corinthians 10:23 it says “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.”
So all things are lawful (he is not talking about sin – he was talking to the Jews about new freedoms in Christ and things that are permissible. He is NOT saying that sin is lawful!) but that is not our only filter when we act.
Is it helpful?
Does it build up? Yourself, others or the Glory of God?

We must be careful, because this tendency towards the things of this world, rather then the things of God, can be dangerous.
1 John 2:15, 17 – “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
Matthew 6:24 – “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
In this passage, Jesus is talking specifically of money, but this can go for anything we set up and worship other than God.
James 4:4-5 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?
The world = Enemies of God.
And the only reason that we are not still enemies of God is because of Jesus and what he did for us – if you are in Christ and born again. If you are not, you are an enemy of God.
I don’t know about you guys, but I do not want to be an enemy of God.
But how? How do we come to seek the things of God over the things of the world?
I believe that one of the reasons we do not long for God, that we do not desire the Word of God and why we cling to the things of the World is that we do not have a right view of God and we do not treasure Him as we should and how He deserves.
I think we take Jesus for granted and do no see Him as He is.

Do you treasure Jesus?
Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Matthew 13:45-46 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Do we give our all to obtain more of the Kingdom? More of Christ? To be in closer fellowship with Jesus?
We don’t. I don’t.  — It’s because we do not properly treasure Christ. We do not have a proper view of our Savior.
Matt 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
This is problem with our hearts.
To solve this heart problem, let’s take some time to look at Jesus – A true and honest look, and we why we should value him so highly.

Reason 1

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
The Word is Jesus, and he was in the Beginning – he is eternal, existing before time – with God, and being God.
STOP: Think about that, not as something you have heard multiple times and has becoming normal for you to hear, but really think about it.
And all things, ALL THINGS, were made through Him. It says in Colossians 1:16-17 that all things were created by Him, and in Him all things hold together.
He is creator and sustainer – of EVERYTHING.

Reason 2

Revelations 19:11-16 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
He is defender and warrior. This passage is a terrifying view of Jesus, but a right view of Him. He is the one who will destroy sin and death – and all of those who are not His own.
To prepare a way for his people – those that He loves and that love Him. – to enter into this.
Revelations 21:3-5 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
This is the goal! – This is what we should have our eyes set on, and this is what we should  be valuing. Eternity with God, in full and unbroken fellowship – like Adam and Eve before the Fall.

Reason 3

Let’s continue to look at our Lord Jesus and why we should treasure Him.
John 1:14a And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
Jesus took on flesh and come to live among man.
Jesus – God, eternal, creator, sustainer, defender, and destroyer of sin and death – took on broken human flesh and lived among broken, sinful and unfaithful people.
He willingly chose to do this!  This was the plan since the beginning of time.

Why?!
Colossians 1:19-20 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
He did this to reconcile all things to himself buy the Blood of the cross. – He did this for US!
That was his purpose for coming… to redeem His people for His glory!
We are worth that much to Him.
He treasures us deeply – Why do not treasure him the same way?

We must remember what he saved us from – our bondage to sin, slavery and death.
Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—  among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
So if you are saved and born again in Christ – we must remember that person we were and how Christ has set us from from that.
And we could not do this on our own – He had to be the one to do this!

Reason 4

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 15:26 But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
Christ has given us, sent us, the Holy Spirit to dwell with us and in us.
1 Corinthians 3:16 [Do you not know that you[a] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?]
We are a temple – His temple- because God’s Spirit dwells within us.
The God of all creation has chosen to dwell within us.
To be with us always -and to teach and guide us about Christ
It says in Romans 8:11 that this is the same Spirit of God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead! – That power resides within us.
How can we not treasure this? We are so quick to think, “Yeah, I know this” but do we really absorb this information and what that means for our lives. The Holy, Just, God of Creation willing lives and indwells broken, sinful, man.
This is crazy right?! How is this even possible?
In the Old Testament, the Spirit of the Lord dwelled in the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant.
This was most Holy – There is a story in 2 Samuel of a man named Uzzah and this is what happened to him as they were moving the Ark of the Covenant.
2 Samuel 6:6-7 And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.
He was trying to steady the Ark so it would not fall. He touched the Ark and died! He died coming that close to the Holiness of God. That is the only fate available to sinners when confronted with the Holiness of God.
And this same Spirit lives in us! The very same. And we do not die – because of the blood of Christ and his sacrifice to bring us into right standing before God. The Holy Spirit is our guarantee of our salvation and the proof that we have right standing before God, because it we did not we could die.
This is how we learn to treasure God more – by realizing what he has done for us – and praising Him for it.
This is why we must meditate on the Word – think about it – not just hear it.

Reason 5

Finally – Romans 8:26, 33-34 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. –  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
If everything else was not already more than we could process – The Holy Spirit and Jesus, Himself, intercede for us before the Father.
When we do not know how to pray as we should, the Holy Spirit prays for us – on our behalf.
And Christ is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us – rescuing us from the charges against us and from condemnation.
Why do we treasure Christ? – How can we not? – When we have a right view of Him!
The very God of Creation who has come into human flesh, the Christ who will end sin and death forever, for the purpose of saving and redeeming His people. More than that, Christ has sent the very Spirit of God – so holy that it cannot abide sin – to dwell within us, reveal truth to us and intercede for us.

This is how we treasure Christ – Look at Him!
My prayer for you is this: Ephesians 1:16-18 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and that the Lord would make this your heart –
Philippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
Fight the Good Fight of Faith my friends.
This will not be easy, but its worth it.

Mo3

Engage the Outsider

What do you find is your treasure in your own life? What is that thing you cannot live without?

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Outsider Applauds: Mark of the Lion Series

mo 2So, for my next Outsider Applauds I want to tell you about one of my favorite trilogies. But I want to preface this by saying that, generally, I do not like Christian Fiction. I often find it boring, or predictable, and too unrealistic. That is not true for Francine Rivers books. I have not read all of her stuff, and probably won’t to be honest. I first read her book, Redeeming Love. It’s a story based off of the book Hosea (which is my favorite book of the Bible – I am sure I will write a blog gushing over it at some point) and it was really good. Like real good. So note that despite that, I am not writing about that book.

I am writing about the Mark of the Lion Series. This trilogy is made up of Voice on the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness and As Sure as the Dawn. There are numerous characters that we follow throughout the books but two main storylines. The first is the story of Hadassah, a young Jewish girl just sold into slavery, and the family she serves The Valerian’s, a prominent, wealthy family in Rome. The other follows Atretes, a Germanic warrior who is captured and turned into a Gladiator in Rome. Set the generation after Christ when Rome desecrated Jerusalem and at the height of Roman prowess, this characters will captivate your heart. Hadassah is a constant testament to fighting for your faith, not just in society but within yourself, battling herself as much as she battles the world. The Valerians buy Hadassah to be a maid for their youngest child, Julia, and we begin to see the family dynamics at play. Demetrius, a foreigner who bought his Roman Citizenship and the Head of this Household doing everything he can to provide for his family and protect them from the endless indulgences and debauchery of Rome, with his wife Phoebe who loves her children but is brokenhearted by their desire to live as Romans and not live a life that is pleasing to the many gods she spends hours praying before. Then there is Julia, the spoiled, indulgent youngest child who wants nothing more than to be like her big brother and experience all the pleasures and wonders of Rome. Then there’s Marcus, a young man who has been swept up in the chaos of Rome, but had found himself jaded, unhappy and bored with the life he had created for himself, but refuses to be pressured into the life his father wishes for him. Finally, you have Atretes, a Germanic warrior who has been captured and uses his rage against Rome and his belief in his tribal god, Tiwaz, to fight for his life as a gladiator.

mo I have never found myself so invested in characters before, and I love to read. I would get so lost in these books that I would find myself praying for the characters. Strength for Hadassah. Salvation for others. Then I would realize what I was doing, laugh at myself and apologize to God getting so wrapped up in book. Hadassah is written so transparently and her struggles are put on display and we can see how she struggles to remain faithful, which demonstrates way we can struggle and fight to remain faithful, especially when our flesh wants nothing more than to cave and give in. Marcus is paramount in helping us to personify the struggle with being discontent with the world around us and the desperation and sorrow that comes when they have nothing else to turn to.

The book begins with a harrowing and haunting description of Jerusalem during the first Jewish-Roman war. Enjoying historical fictions, I loved the first new chapters that really set up the world Hadassah (in Jerusalem) and Atretes (in Germania) were leaving and the world they now found themselves in, the great Roman Empire. However, this intro can be very sad, and some people can get lost in it and give up on the book before getting to Rome. If this section is difficult for you, I would encourage you to read until you meet the Valerians and complete that chapter. Wait until you get to Rome and Hadassah is installed in the Valerian household. If you still are not hooked, then that’s fine, we all have different taste — but hold out through Jerusalem and Germania, get to Rome before you quit.

So, there it is. I love these books. I reread them at least one a year, I just cannot stop myself. So grab a copy on the first book for your next vacation and get ready to enter a world that will challenge you, convict you and cause you to look at the world around us. Here is the link for the author’s site and more information if you want: http://www.francinerivers.com/books/series/mark-lion

I hope that you have a great day, and happy reading!

Mo3RSVP!

What is your favorite fiction book you have ever read?

Well Hello There. Haven’t seen you in a while!

What a crazy, I mean CRAZY, last few months.

And again… I am writing an apology blog. I am literally the worst. What happened was I was writing a book review for a very academic book, that was wonderful, but taking FOREVER, and I stalled out. I didn’t want to post until I finished it as motivation, and now 3 months later, it’s still not done.

So I give up. That stupid review will not be posted. BUT I WILL POST! Life has been an absolute whirlwind, and I am finally getting settled back stateside.

So here is a fly-by update of what I missed telling you all about over the last 3 months.

In Belgium:

  • April 4-8 – Camp with our Students
  • April 21 – Trip to Bruges/Brugge with Jennifer & Shawn
  • May 8 – A 9-Hour Romanian Wedding
  • May 21 – Lecrae Concert
  • May 22 – Surprise Party for me (the night before I left)
  • May 23 – I came back to the US of A (And got trapped in Tulsa overnight because of crazy storms)

In Oklahoma

  • May 29– My Friend leave for Nicaragua for a month with a bunch of my students!
  • June 1-5 – Middle School Camp with my students
  • June 4 – Broke my toe at camp… seriously.
  • June 6 – My BEST FRIEND got married!
  • June 15-18 – VBS!
  • June 12-14 – Weekend Retreat in the Woods (Processing Belgium and such)
  • June 19 – Started a week long temp Job
  • June 25 – Got hired on Full Time at my Temp Job (For the summer until I go back to Belgium)
  • June 26 – Everyone comes back from Nicaragua!
  • June 28 – July 1 – Volleyball Tourney with The Youths at church
  • July 4-5 – Good Times with Family in Stillwater.
  • July 10 – I quit being a loser and start blogging again.

Now you are caught up. Welcome to my life.

In all seriousness, the challenges that I have faced over the last 6 months has been exhausting. Some were expected, some caught me completely off guard. Things I thought were true, are not, and things I would have never believed are now concrete in my heart.

For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  – Phil 4:11-12

This has been made true in my life. Contentment and rest are trending as the theme for my summer, and as frustrating as learning these lessons are, I am enjoying the process. I am enjoying the freedom from feeling obligation and the depths of joy in resting and feelings rested. I am still working on not feeling guilty when I say no, and the feeling of needing to do more, but I have decided this is a fight worth fighting.

I will write again soon. I will post LONG overdue pictures from Bruges. I will reinsert myself in your lives. Sorry for taking so long a sabbatical. It wasn’t just you, I promise.

Portes Ouvertes

Friends!

There has been so much going on, sorry to have neglected you as of late. This was a very busy past week. I will be writing blogs this week to update you on the Youth Camp and my trip to Paris!

Today, I just have to tell you about an activity/conference/event we had at the church today. It was called Portes Ouvertes here in Belgium/France (Open Doors back home) and it was part of their Coccinelle Tour 2015 where they are celebrating 60 years as an Organization and reviewing the work the Lord has done over the past 60 years and encourage and motivate a new generation of Christians to support and care for the persecuted church. A woman shared about her faith, imprisonment and exile from an Islam controlled country. I have so often heard stories about my persecuted brothers and sisters worldwide, and my heart and prayers go out to them often, but on this trip to Belgium, I have had the immense blessing to meet several brothers and sisters who have personally endured extreme persecution for their faith. Being able to talk with this women was so encouraging. And it amazed me that she was so excited to meet an American. I was like, whatever, I’m just an American – That’s nothing special! You are in the Father’s hand! Your relationship and trust in the Lord is so convicting and encouraging! Oh to be used as the Father is using you! It was such a blessing and a gift.

For me, it was also really great to have so many of the students who has come to camp be there as well. I feel like they were able to get a really great view of the blessing they have here in Belgium, as well as the call and the weight of that call. It breaks my heart that so many people think that becoming a Christian makes things easier. They is just not true. If anything, in my experience it makes things harder sometimes. You end up facing a battle not only with the world but also with yourself, and dying to self everyday is not easy. However, it is worth it. I can’t imagine trying to do all of this without God. I literally would not be alive. He is my anchor, my hope, my joy, my all. It’s been unreal the transition, but one that I would do again and again.

We, in western cultures, too often hide the difficult parts of scripture and being a Christian, and because we do this, sometimes people feel as if we pulled a “bait and switch” on them. “Isn’t God supposed to protect me?” Then why did [insert illness, struggle, pain, life] happen to me? This must be God doesn’t not care about me or does not exist.

FALSE!

This is just not true! The Bible does say that God will protect us, but I don’t think this is always referring to our physical bodies and our comfort. He protects our soul, our hope, our salvation! He certainly holds all things together (Colossians 1:17), but I believe that He can use anything that happens to us for His Glory and our sanctification.

This should be our priority, not success, health or comfort. We need to readjust our ideas of Truth.


Here are some links that you may enjoy, going back to the Coccinelle Tour! Bedtime over here!! Free day tomorrow… I am so happy! Rest, here I come!

For Information about the Coccinelle Tour 2015 go to: 60ans.portesouvertes.fr/le-coccinelle-tour/

For Information about Portes Ouvertes go to: www.portesouvertes.fr

For Information about Open Doors go to: www.opendoors.org

Outsider Applauds: Look at the Book

I just wanted to take a quick moment to share an awesome resource with you.

I will admit that sometimes studying the Bible, without workbooks, commentaries, etc, can seem daunting and a little overwhelming, but I have derived so much joy from time in the Word like this. I recently stumbled upon this sections of the Desiring God website called Look at the Book. What John Piper does is shows a bit of text on the screen, and walks us through how to look at the text and study it. It shows us his through processed and the way he breaks down the text. This can be really helpful as we grow in our abilities to study scripture and grown in our knowledge of God. See the video below for the “trailer” if you will given by Desiring God about Look at the Book.

I would encourage you to take time to review a couple of these videos. I’ll watch/listen to one while I am doing dishes or cooking. It can also be helpful if you are studying a particular passage or book, to see an additional viewpoint. I believe spending time watching videos like this, rather than yet another Fail video, or Dumb Cute Cat, can be beneficial for our growth as Christians and for just plain ol’ good for the soul.

Look at the Book: http://www.desiringgod.org/labs

I think this will be a new aspect of my blog every so often… Outsider Applauds- For resources, books, tools, etc that I would recommend and endorse to you as beneficial and good. What do ya think?

Tools for the Fight: My Lesson from Friday Night

Readers!

I promised you that if my lesson went well on Friday night I would post the notes from it on here! So here they are.

Main Idea: We naturally drawn to sin, but we have ways to avoid and protect yourself from sin. 

  1. Our Never Ending Battle with Sin.
    1. The Bible tells us over and over that we are sinful to the core.
      1. Genesis 6:5 — “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
      2. Ephesian 2:1-2 — “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience”
      3. This is an idea that most Christians are familiar with. Our relation of our sin drives us to our need for a Savior.
        1. There is nothing we can do to solve our problem with sin on our own.
        2. This is where Christ steps in.
          1. Ephesians 2:4-5 — “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved”
          2. 2 Corinthians 5:21 — “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”  
        3. Christ pays for the Eternal Consequences of sin for us!
          1. But does the means that we no longer desire to sin? By no means! Even Paul struggles with the impulse and desire to sin.
            1. Romans 7:18-20 — “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. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me”
          2. We are called to Fight the Sin in our lives.
            1. 1 Timothy 6:11-12 — But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses”
            2. 2 Timothy 2:22 — “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart”
          3. We must daily fight sin in our lives! But the Lord has given up two excellent tools to fight sin with!
            1. A New Identity
            2. A New Community
  2. Our New Identity
    1. Let’s start with 2 Corinthians 5:17 — “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come”
      1. When we are in Christ, we become NEW! (This happens when the Holy Spirit come to us.)
        1. The Old has passed away and the new has come.
          1. So what is this new that we are?
            1. Ephesians 1:3-12 – [This is a BIG chunk, but what is says about us as Christians, and its important.] “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory”
              1. Blessed with every spiritual blessing. 
              2. Chosen
              3. Holy
              4. Blameless
              5. Adopted as sons and daughters
              6. Blessed
              7. Redeemed
              8. Forgiven
              9. Lavished with Grace
              10. United with Christ
              11. Obtained an Inheritance
              12. Hope
            2. This is what God says has been given to us, through Christ, that we are given when we become Christians, submit to the Lord and walk in the life He has planned for us.
          2. But why does knowing our identity help us fight sin.
            1. This world often bases our identity on others and how they view us.
              1. Have you ever doubted yourself and your identity because of what another person, or society, says about you?
              2. Or, have you ever done something you didn’t want to, or that you knew was wrong, to gain others approval?
            2. Do you see how our identity matters! When our identity is questioned, we question our worth.
              1. When we feel worthless, we will often stop at nothing to stop feeling this way.
              2. Some sinful ways that this shows in our lives are:
                1. Taking 100’s of selfies in order to look “just perfect” before posting.
                2. Giving up our standards and purity in relationships to please the other person.
                3. Compromising our morals to save a relationship.
                4. Giving up Church or Time with God for other things like school, sleep or video games.
              3. These situations can lead us into sins like these because we are looking to relationships or people for our worth and identity.
                1. Busyness
                2. Laziness
                3. Vanity
                4. Drunkenness
                5. Sexual Immorality
              4. But why? – We put the thoughts and opinions of other, and what they say about us, before what God says about us, we do not walk in our identity that God has give us.
                1. This is why we must remember what God says about us and believe the Word of God over the World.
                2. We must seek what God says about us over what the world says!
                  1. When we trust God’s identity for us over the world’s, then we are free from trying to constantly impress others.
              5. I can share from personal experience – When I was younger, I was so worried about what other people thought of me that it was all that I could ever think about. It caused depression, anxiety and overwhelming selfishness in my life, trying to live up to the image I wanted them to see, and to be enough for them. But when I gave it up and chose to Believe what God says about me instead, there was such freedom. I don’t worry as much, so I can think about others more. I am more aware of when others are hurting or more focused on what is happening around me, and less focused on what people are thinking of me. It is such a relief.
  1. Our New Community
    1. We were never intended to live our lives in Faith by ourselves.
      1. Even all the way back in Genesis, in the Garden of Eden, God does not leave Adam alone, but gives him a companion because it wasn’t good that he was alone.
      2. Ecclesiastics 4:9-12 — Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
        1. This verse shows how when we fall or are overcome, if we are alone we will fail. But if we have others around us, they can lift us up and help us withstand.
          1. We help strengthen each other because we need each other!
      3. God gives an great example of what Christian Community should look like.
        1. Acts 2:42-47 — “And they devoted themselves to the apostles ‘ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved”
        2. This is a familiar passage for most of us, but let us take a deeper look at it. What elements are highlighted about this group?
          1. Devoted to Teaching (Studying together)
          2. Fellowship
          3. Prayer
          4. Provided for one another
          5. Attended services together
          6. Shared meals and life together
          7. Praising God
        3. It this what your friendships with other Christians looks like?
          1. Do you study the Bible together?
          2. Do you talk about what you have been learning in scripture together?
          3. Do you pray for one another often?
          4. Do we take care of each other when we need help?
          5. Do we truly share life together?
        4. Does another Christian truly know you and do you know someone else?
          1. When I say know, I mean does anyone know your struggles, the sins you battle, the doubts you have, the dreams your have?
            1. James 5:16 — “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
        5. When we are known by other believers:
          1. We stand stronger in our faith
          2. We grow stronger in our ability to withstand temptation to sin
          3. We are reminded of Truth when we begin to doubt, or question our identity.
        6. We need community to persevere. This is how we persevere. This close community is gift from the Lord, but one we ignore too often.

Well… There it is. I hope you enjoy it.

Coffee Shop Acquisition

I think I have finally found my coffee shop.

I love having a coffee shop. Sablon_Fotor

Seriously! I work at a coffee shop back stateside, I love coffee ,and I love the environment that a good coffee shop can provide. Enough comfort that I can relax and enough people around that I feel like I need to be productive. Sablon3_FotorIt’s it adorable!?! My friend showed me this place a couple of weeks ago, and then the students came and I life got a little insane for a bit. After that Oklahoma Tornado left, I was able to settle back in, and I thought about this place. This is my 3rd time here this week, and it is now official, I love it. It can get a bit busy, but if you get here earlier enough, you’re good. And there are little plug-ins in super convenient places.Sablon2_Fotor There are also excellent seat right by the windows looking out to the street for days that I just want to read and enjoy a cup of coffee. Oh! And did I mention that the roast IN HOUSE! This place! I am going to miss it in a few months.

That’s really all for today. Things are going well. I went to one of the open air markets for fruits and veggies yesterday and I was very proud of my spoils from the trip.

Market Spoils_FotorAlso, I am teaching tonight at Youth so… Exciting! If it goes well, I might just post my notes from it on here tomorrow.

Oh, Broken Church!

There are times that I feel just angry. I don’t mean to, and I know that it’s wrong. I should be more patient, understanding, and encouraging. I just get mad though.

I should probably tell you why, haha!

I get really angry with American (or Western) Church mindsets, and how people can so easily get sucked into “Church Culture” rather than true and fruitful Faith in Christ. I can literally rant and rant and rant and rant and rant and rant and rant and rant and RANT on this topic for hours, as those who know me in person can attest. This past week, at my church, i was thinking about this, and getting angry about this, and stated thinking about it.

I then began writing.

I was able to get out some of my anger in the poem below, and communicate how I was feeling, and call out those who I feel need to be called out (if they read it…)

It is long. I was going to apologize of it, but truly – Sorry, not sorry! I couldn’t stop… and I think it needs to be said. So take the time to read it please. So here it is.

Plunged deep in the world

Anchored by the Truth I know

Seeking a way to love the Tares,

Finding it easier than believed.

But as time progresses, love demands more.

My heart breaks as my treasured friends flail.

Trying to find happiness, joy and purpose.

Failing and left wondering Why.

How do I console and comfort

When my respite, my solace, is not what they want to hear.

Their deepest need and the completion of their desires,

They reject as archaic, narrow and just not for them.

“The hypocrites, the judgement, the culture that skewed,

The church doesn’t want them” They think and they cry.

And they’re not wrong.

The church is uncomfortable with friends like mine.

Their lives are messy and filled with grime.

Pain beyond measure, impossible choices,

Risky situations and problems we can’t solve.

How do we act with the lost in our way?

The Pharisees, that brood of vipers,

The religious “elite”, those Whitewashed tombs,

They judge, spurn and withdrawn in disgust.

The proclaim shallow praise for their “pious natures,”

While looking down on the broken with a sneer and a stare.

Rather,

Look to our leader, our ever Faithful Big Brother.

How does Jesus engage the lost?

Does He judge, spurn and withdraw,

Or does He love, move close and embrace?

Matthew and Mark both tell the tale,

Jesus was eating, living and loving,

The worst of the sinners, the tare, the lost.

THIS is our call, oh broken church!

To be a Christian, oh “Little-Christ.”

Our Lord would embrace, love and reach to meet needs.

Do you push them aside or cross the road,

or, God-forbid, attack and judge.

Do you assume you know their state?

Do you know their minds, their thoughts and their pains?

The lies they believe or the Truth they can’t see?

Christ came for the sick, the lost, the sinners to the core.

How quickly we forget that’s our state for sure.

Why do we think we can elevate our plight?

That we’re not “that bad” or never took it “that far”

But save the hand of our Lord reaching down

Our state would be sure and equal to theirs.

We’re indulgent, disobedient and seeking our own.

Sin breaks us all and drags us down deep,

Beyond what we think, beyond what we know.

Our desires, our lust, removes all our reason.

Don’t fool yourself, or think you’re above it.

Your state, you sin, without Christ is damning .

Not matter our sin, it removes us from God.

Separate from God, no goodness exist.

In order to love and serve the lost,

We must realize we’re not far from that heart.

Our culture, our nature, resist this approach.

We long freshen up, cover up, and boast.

To accept and speak of our weakness is shunned,

Hide the dirt and proclaim the good.

How funny, that sounds like the very attitude

The Good Lord rebuked the Pharisees for.

Hiding the truth of our sinful heart,

Claiming the glory for good in our lives.

Not realizing how hiding our sin just makes us look fake.

Promotes the idea that we are mere hypocrites.

Step beyond ourselves and how other see,

And be truthful and honest with those in view.

Don’t show off your “power” and “holiness.”

What good is that for struggling friend?

Rather boast in your weakness, and in your failings,

To show off the Glory, Power and Love,

Of the One who brings all Good to the world.

The One who saves all broken lost sinners,

Who cry out His name, and, oh, what a sweet name!

Live your life not to proclaim your goodness,

It’s worthless, filthy rags, as dear Isaiah calls it.

But look to the Good, with a capital “G”,

That comes from beyond ourselves,

Despite ourselves,

From our Glorious King.

We cannot fix and save the lost.

But we were never supposed to,

For that is not who we are.

Our purpose, our aim, no matter our pride,

Is to point the lost, the ones by our side,

Our friends and dear ones,

To the only one who can.

Jesus the Christ, the God-Man, the Savior of All.

Comments, questions and criticisms are welcomed.

Why is Sin Bad?

[Long one… Buckle Up!]

My church is going through series on 1 John right now, and honestly, it has been amazing, very challenging, but amazing. Today’s message was encouraging, challenging and refreshing. It was a shouting “Amen” real loud kind of service.

The sermon today was based on 1 John 3:4-10

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

1 John 3:4-10 ESV

This is one of those passages most of us read and the guilt begins to sink in and sometimes Christians can begin to doubt their salvation. We begin to see the seriousness of sin and how God views it. That was the main focus of today’s message – the seriousness of sin and the importance of guarding against sin. It was so good I decided to post a recap/breakdown of some of the main points. [Clarification point – We discussed in the message the difference between sinning as failure and due to weakness and human nature vs. a practice of intentional sinning – a lifestyle marked by sin. The majority of this is directed as those individuals claiming to be Christians, but still allowing their lives to be marked by sin and regularly practicing sin.]

Sin is lawlessness!

But why is sin so bad?

Most people know that sin is bad. It’s rebellion against God’s law and His rules. But I believe it goes much deeper than that. Sin is an act of rebellion against God Himself, not just His laws (rules). It’s an outright defiance of God. It’s a rejection of his Authority and Godship.

Sin is bad for the following reasons:

1. It ignores the Sufficiency of Christ

Scripture tells us that Christ is Sufficient for all of our needs (2 Cor 12:9, Eph 1:3, Col 2:10). This means He is enough to bring up peace, joy, security, love and completion. When we seek out things in the world to meet these needs for us (relationships for love and completion, money/financial security or abundance for security, ect), we are showing in our actions that God is not enough. We dismiss and disregard Christ’s ability to be enough and satisfy us.

2. It denies the omniscience of God

Intentionally sinning and choosing to live a lifestyle of sin causes us to think that we can hide certain parts of ourselves from God. Like we can hide anything from God. That’s one of the scariest things about God, we are exposed before God because He knows all – even the stuff we do not want Him to see.

3. It shows Ungratefulness

Anyone who knows anything about Christ knows that He died an excruciating death. He, the God-Man, humbled himself to be born as a child – fully dependent on broken humans – and live a sinless life, only to be viciously murdered by the very people He came to save. Not only that, He rose again and defeated sin and death. Why did He do this? To set His people free from the bondage of sin – For Freedom Christ has set you Free (Gal 5:1). When we willing choose to live lives of sin and willing place ourselves back into bondage, we show our ungratefulness and, personally, I believe that we are tell Christ that we do not care about his sacrifice – we would rather do what we want. We demean the very cross and sacrifice of God when we choose to practice sin.

4. It is outside the Will of God – and it does not promote the Will of God.

God’s plan for us is sinlessness… but sin our sin separates us and removed us from the Will of God. God leads us back to his will through discipline and growth, but its a process that can be painful and difficult (I can tell you all about my own story with discipline and how sin removed us from the Will of God – It’s true and its real, and the road back is painful). Furthermore, Sin will never promote and encourage the Will of God – so we cannot justify sin as a “necessary evil” to do something for God.

5. Sin hurts other Believers

When other believers, especially younger (in age and spiritual maturity) see us in a lifestyle of unreported sin, it gives them passive approval for their own sins. This causes thoughts like, “Well if Morgan can do this, then it must be OK.” We must we careful to not lead brothers and sisters into temptation (Matt 18:5-7, 1 Cor 8:9). Furthermore, often times sin is seeking out own good/will/needs over that of others and we can hurt and discourage fellow believes and even lead them into temptation when we are not battling the sin in our lives.

6. It makes the things of God and creates them into Idols.

Sin causes us to value the created things of God over God Himself. We begin to place the focus on what we get from creation (pleasure, security, satisfaction, ect) rather than seeking out these things from the Creator, the one who created it! This is a major theme in both Hosea 2 and Jeremiah 2 – We begin to seek after things of this world and the things that “satisfy” in this world, rather than God. Jeremiah 2 says

“for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13

We forsake, turn our back on, the living water that is Christ, ultimately satisfying and good, and dig out cisterns (literally, holes in the ground to collect rain water to be used a reserve/back-up if the people needed it – stagnant water that is not good) to care for ourselves. We have such a habit of this as people… trying to provide for ourselves. We strive for self-reliance to a point of sin. We were created for dependence on God.

In light of there seriousness of sin, questions to ask yourself Christian!

  1. Is it your desire to escape sin?
  2. When you fall (fail), do you desire to stop it?
  3. Are you growing in your strength to resist sin?
  4. Is it important to you to repent when you sin?
  5. Are you struggling with sin?

Answering yes to these question is an indication of a Relationship with Christ. We are not called to perfect, but to gradual sanctification (the process of becoming more like Christ and gaining victory over sin in our lives).

As the late Puritan John Owen said, “be killing sin or it will be killing you”.

What do we Christians do to deal with the seriousness of Sin?

  1. Ask God for greater sensitivity to sin.
  2. Read Scripture (Stories of Biblical Characters to learn from their mistakes)
  3. Develop deep godly Christian friendships.
  4. Study Biographies of Christians, and read Church History.
  5. Single out a sin for special prayer in your life.
  6. Consider the consequences of your sin.
  7. Confess sin quickly, to God and to other Believers.
  8. Celebrate victories over sin!
  9. Ask God for Grace and Help.

Last thoughts. Non-Christians who read this. Please do not be offended. I promise you, anything harsh is meant to edify and spur my brothers and sister’s in Christ on to further purity and to battle the sin in their lives. If you do not believe in God/Christ, or do not have a relationship with Him, you are living under different standards. I would love to talk with you, answer questions and simply tell you my story if you wish. You can send me an e-mail or just comment and I would love to talk with you.

[This is pulled from my notes on a message preached by Dennis Newkirk this weekend at Henderson Hills Baptist Church. I did not come up with this on my own (blah blah) and I will edit this post and put a link to the message as soon as its up.]

Patience in the Waiting…

Sorry for my absence. My time is limited as it is, and writing this blog has inspired me to continue writing on my book. I would like to say that I will be more regular… but I’d hate to lie to you all.

For those of you who do not know, I help facilitate a GriefShare group at the office where I am completing my internship for counseling. Honestly, this group has taught me so much about loss, pain and perseverance. I have become a better person and a better Christian through helping facilitate 2 cycles of this group so far. There are many excellent speakers and writers that contribute to the material. There was one quote a couple weeks ago that really stuck out to me.

You see, waiting is not only about what you will receive at the end of the wait. Waiting is about what you will become as you wait. In calling us to wait, God is rescuing us from our bondage to our own plan, our own wisdom, our own power, our own control. In calling us to wait, God is freeing us from the claustrophobic confines of our own little kingdoms of one and drawing us into a greater allegiance to his Kingdom of glory and grace. – Dr Paul Tripp

I am not a patient person. I wish I was… but I am not. I take a long time to make a decision usually, but once I do, it’s game time. I am ready to dive all in on projects or task. Sometimes this is not how it works. This is not life. Things take time. I am in the process of planning and preparing to go to Brussels Belgium to work with some friends and a church over there for 3 months. I have been wanting to do this for over a year, and there has been so much waiting in this process. I do not wait well. I start to doubt. I get scared, or discouraged. Waiting seems to be a theme in my life, and I simply don’t like it.

However, I have been much happier to deal with waiting as I have learned to not waste my waiting, but rather to wait well. Dr. Paul Tripp’s quote above reminds me about how important waiting can be, especially for my soul. See, on top of being very impatient, I am also a planner, so I always have a plan. It can change, and I literally have a dozen back up plans at any one time. But wait… see… waiting causes planning to be put on pause. You can’t plan when you do not know what is coming next. This quote above from Dr. Tripp is so true. We lock ourselves into a our plans and don’t leave room for what God had planned.  I get so wrapped up in my own little kingdom, where I am the queen and I run this, and forget all about the True Kingdom ran by my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings. I have seen my own plans, wisdom, power and control fail, but I still continue to put my trust in these things, rather than my Lord who has never failed me. I need constant reminds from scripture of Truth (Don’t we all?). The Psalms are full of encouragement to wait on the Lord.

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalms 27:14

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. – Psalms 130:5-6

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices – Psalms 37:7

Wait for the Lord. Psalms 40 tells us the result of waiting on the Lord.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. – Psalm 40:1

Sounds so simple… but oh the struggle. Waiting is so hard! Waiting for healing. Waiting for answers. Waiting for love. Waiting for directions. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

We must be on guard to not simply waste our waiting with grumbling and complaining, or waste it by looking forward always and missing what is around us. One expression that I always remember in times of waiting is “Bloom where you’re planted” and “Wherever you are, be all there”.

If we say we trust God, and we trust his plans for our lives, we can trust that we are not where we are by mistake. God did not let this slip through his fingers; He did not drop the ball. God is still as in control today in your waiting (or suffering) as He was when things were going exactly as you planned.

Pray truth over yourself. Encourage yourself with scripture. When you do not know how to wait any longer, just ask the Lord to make scripture like these true in your life.

But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. – Micah 7:7

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. – 1 Corinthians 15:58