Growth Points & Pains Part 1- Introducing A New Series

The last time I truly posted, It was about pictures I'd found this past summer. Dear readers, I have to ask your forgiveness. I've been a "safe" blogger. My personal beliefs have not invaded my life heretofore, and therefore, did not enter my blogging. NO LONGER. From now on, I will endeavor that all my blog posts be uplifting, edifying, and exhorting. Please forgive me dear readers, and let us begin again. I've decided to begin with a list of things I've seen changing in my life and those things that have impacted me since I made that important decision in my walk with God. Each item will have a separate post.

 Pastor Jonathan had a series he did in the January of  2012 titled  Becoming A True Disciple, based on Matthew 16: 24,25

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."

He broke it down into four sermons, the first being: Deny Yourself. This is a tough concept to grasp. It means laying aside all that you are and letting Him change you.
                 1: Deny Yourself. We must lay aside all that we are and die to self. We must be dead and buried.  ONLY by letting Him live through you can you live at all.

C.S. Lewis put it this way:  

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. 
Now, I don't know about you, but this submission idea not a natural concept for me. I've never been submissive and my will was everything. The idea of denying me used to be an abhorrent thought. Back in September of 2012 Pa, Mama, Brianna and I were studying the book of 1st John in our Faith Bible Institute class. The verse that   changed me was I John 1: 5-7:

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto 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 the truth:but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, 
we have fellowship one with another, 
and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

It was like...well the light went on. Salvation's purpose wasn't to get me out of Hell...it was for me to WALK with HIM! Wow! (Even now, 1 & 1/2 years later, that discovery excites me.)  I was to walk in light, to do what He said, leaning on him for every second, allowing His light to show my stains of sin so I could repent of them, confess and restore our fellowship. And oh, what a sweet fellowship it is! To have someone beside me, to talk to, walk with, be comforted by. Someone for whom I can give it all without hurt, doubt or regret!

Over this past summer, Näna, Emma and I did a study together through the books, Do Hard Things and Start Here, both written by Alex and Brett Harris, founders of the Rebelution.
*side note: These books are simply awesome. They are practical, useful tools of us "normal" young people. I would highly reccommend them to any and everyone who can read. Any age, Christian or not. Seriously, they're that life-changing.*
Back to my story. We did this study, and it changed my way of thinking entirely. Suddenly, I saw the unacheiveable as acheiveable. I could lay down my life for the life He was giving me. All I had to do was simply...let go. Perhaps, I'm not making sense. Maybe this is something you just have to learn for yourself. But I guarantee, when you do get it, you'll be ecstatic. No more burden to bear. Like Casting Crown's song, Come to the Well.

You can spend your whole life
Chasing what's missing.
But that empty inside,
It just ain't gonna listen.
When nothing can satisfy,
And the world leaves you high and dry:
Come to the Well.

And all who thirst will thirst no more.
All who search will find, what their soul's long for.
The world can try, but it can never fill.
Leave it all behind,
And come to the Well.

So, to put what just took me all that time to say into a nutshell (a really deep nutshell), I've changed. When reading those book, the light clicked; it all fell into place. All the knowledge of Christianity and the daily walk I'd gained through my life suddenly made sense. And it was so simple, even an adult could do it. 

 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying,

Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 18: 1-4)
So. My challenge to you is this. Fall in love with Jesus. I don't mean just silly, fluffy feelings that people call love. I mean a real, deep, I-want-to-do-all-I-can-to-show-how-grateful-I-am-for-abundant-life love. Start by doing those little things that every Christian ought to do and usually doesn't...

  • Read your Bible every morning. This should be a given, but you'd be surprised how many Christians don't. I mean, just ask around.  If you have problems with consistency *guilty*, ask someone in your family to remind you every once in a while, when you aren't expecting it. The threat of having someone else know you're slacking is usually enough incentive. At least for me.
  • Pray. Again, should be 'primary school stuff', but when was the last time you just took time to thank Him for all He's done for you. I'm not referring to the "thank you for the good weather, my health, and my family". The trick here is: BE SPECIFIC.
  • Talk to someone. Communication is the basis of any relationship. Good communication. Pick a lull in dinner conversation to say: "You know, God showed me something awesome about ____ this week." This is pleasantly unexpected and usually leads to a wholesome and exhorting conversation. It strengthens family ties and encourages others' involvement in their own studies. CAUTION: THIS IS ADDICTIVE. The more you do it, the more your crave it. I mean really crave it. Like when you're in the PMS stage and you just found out that there's no peanut butter in the house. *personal experience*
Just. Go. For. It. Honestly-what do you have to lose?

Now My Lifesong Sings-living a life of praise

Anyone who is familiar with Casting Crowns knows that my title includes two of their song titles, my favorite of the two being "And Now My Lifesong Sings". This video has pretty pictures and the lyrics are included. The piano is played beautifully here. Please take a minute or two and listen.

Praise is so much more than singing a song or saying "Praise God!" when one is excited. It's more than simple words. It's more than a feeling of ecstasy. Any faith built on emotions is a futile faith indeed. Praise begins as does love, forgiveness, surrender and just about every other aspect of life.

A Choice.

“Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state of the other.”                  -C. S. Lewis, courtesy of Good Reads

The things I mentioned above are all wonderful sources of praise, and are great ways to praise our Lord. However you can sing the most soul-stirring, praise-giving song and yet, with our own glory in mind or thinking about something else. In that case, then whom are we really praising? It isn't praise-it's vain, or even, God-forbid, hypocrisy. I'm not condemning anyone; I'm just as guilty as the next man on this one.

Also, what if we praise God with all our heart...on Sunday morning. ouch. Praise should be a week-long endeavor. A constant thing.

How? I'm glad you asked!
There are many ways to praise Him! Anything we do that brings glory to His name is praise, not just verbally, but in our actions.

  • When we treat another with love, especially if they don't deserve it.
  • When our motives are pure.
  • When others see us endure great trials and not wither away.
  • When we pray before a meal in a public place.
  • When we dress in a way that doesn't defraud.
  • When our faces radiate Him and His beauty.
  • When we are always grateful in all things...even harsh criticism.
  • When every time we are praised, we use it as a chance to reflect who He is and what He's done.
People will notice...and He will be praised.

The bad news...there is a way that we can praise Him and still have evil in our mouths:

"But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we menwhich are made after the similitude of God.Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursingMy brethren, these things ought not so to be.Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh." -James 3:8-12
Also in Matthew we are told:

"...How can ye, being evil, speak good things? 
for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." -Matthew 12:34

We cannot speak one way to God and another to his Creation. No aspect of God can accept hypocrisy. He is the Truth and cannot lie. (John 14:6, Titus 1:2)Our God is holy and maintains Himself as such.

To conclude, let us praise Him with sounds of music, lifted voices, working hands, running feet, loving hearts and pure minds.

 Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord 
              Praise ye the Lord.-Psalm 150:6


Blessed- more than happiness

The word blessed is tossed about so frequently these days with a careless attitude.

"Have a blessed day."
"We're so blessed."

You hear them everywhere-the cashier at the grocery store, the get-well card from the neighbor, the good-bye hug from a friend.
While these phrases and uses are accurate, they're used without thought.

So, what does it mean to be blessed? Most would describe it as happy. But this adjective is simply an understatement. Some say it means joyful...and it does, to an extent. But the Greek word eulogeo implies to be filled with a joy that rises above our circumstances.

Consider this:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit [humble]...
Blessed are they that mourn...
Blessed are the meek...
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness...
Blessed are the merciful...
Blessed are the pure in heart...
Blessed are the peacemakers...
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake...
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you..."
Matthew 5:3-11 

None of these sound great or easy, and yet we are  filled with joy above our circumstances.

That is blessed.

We are even told the blessings that are given to each of the qualities above...
"...Their's is the kingdom of heaven...
they shall be comforted...
they shall inherit the [new] earth...
they shall be filled...
they shall obtain mercy...
they shall see God...
they shall be called the children of God...
their's is the kingdom of heaven..."
Matthew 5:3-11

The first word in the book of Psalms is, you guessed it, blessed.

"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful."

Also look at Psalm 32:1, 2

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man unto whomthe Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile."
We whose sins are covered and in whom is no guile (which is all the saved), are blessed. No matter what happens around us, we will have joy! Not just happiness (an emotion), but JOY (a decision).

Psalm 119 tells us of blessedness three times:

"Blessed are the undefiled in the way,      who walk in the law of the Lord.Blessed are they that keep his testimonies,      and that seek him with the whole heart.Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes."Psalm 119:1, 2, 12

Hear what John Wesley had to say about Blessed Joy:

"Our Lord has purchased
          Joy, as well as Righteousness, for us."

 In a song by Steven Curtis Chapman, titled "Live Out Loud", verse two says:

Picture this:
Try to keep a bird from singing
After it's soared up in the sky.
Give the sun a cloudless day,
And tell it not to shine.
Think about this:
If we really have been given
The gift of life that will never end-
And if we're filled with living hope,
We're gonna overflow,
And if God's love is burning in our hearts,
Ya know we're gonna glow.
There's just no way to keep it in!

 How true! If you really are walking in light (I John 1:5-7) then you will be filled with joy unspeakable.

And that's blessed.

So go on...shout: Jesus is great!
*Caution: people may ask you why you're so happy!*
In conclusion:

"And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."I John 1:4