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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Value of Godly Friendship

As I was sitting yesterday in the Student Commons on campus, talking with a friend of mine who works with Campus Outreach, I really got to reflect on how awesome it is to have those people in your life that point you back to God. I know it has helped me in so many ways here in college and as a Midshipman, but also when I was in high school. Matter of fact, when I sit back and think about it, if it wasn't for those Godly friends that would always encourage me and point me back to God, who knows where I would be right now and how much my faith would have gone by the wayside. It's opened up my eyes to the true value of having those Godly friendships in your life. Just to shoot off a few things, it helps significantly with different struggles you maybe having, temptations, addictions, etc. But it also is an encouragement to hang around people who are like minded and want to honor God with their lives. Helps you to have fun without having to do stupid stuff.
Going through high school, I struggled with a lot of different things. Stress about school and getting into college, getting everything turned in on time, things sometimes going on at home, and of course temptations of various sorts that comes with being a teenager and being human. It got me down at times. However, it was friends and mentors that brought me up, people that had been through the same stuff I had, or were going through it too. People that would give me wisdom that you knew was what God wanted them to say to me. It really encouraged me and helped me to stay strong in my faith through difficult times. Matter of fact, if we check out Ecclesiastes chapter 4, King Solomon talks about relying on one another.
"Two are better than one,Because they have a good reward for their labor.10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.But woe to him who is alone when he falls,For he has no one to help him up.11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;But how can one be warm alone?12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.And a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

It's amazing how true that is. When we go through stuff together, we are stronger, and we can encourage each other to turn back to God. That idea of threefold cord, you, a friend and God, can't be easily broken. Matter of fact, it won't be. Find that person to help bear your burdens with you (Galatians 6:2). It's a huge encouragement.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Not a Fan

     Football...something we all enjoy on Friday nights at the stadium, or watching our favorite teams on TV Saturday and Sundays. Teams like Alabama, Florida, UPenn and of course our own high school team (btw those are all random). We follow them through thick and thin, enjoying watching them play and what not. It a pastime. But it's a whole different story watching from the stands or our couches at home, to actually getting on the field and playing. Most of us don't really want to get crushed by a linebacker. Or those of us who do play football, it's a lot different going on to a volleyball court and playing. I wouldn't want to get spiked in the face either. We just sit back and enjoy watching the game. Well, so many times we do the exact same thing with our faith. We'd much rather be a fan of Jesus than picking up our crosses each day and following Him. Are we going to take the leap of faith, get out on the field of faith and play the game of life with Jesus as our coach, or will we continue to sit on the sidelines and cheering for Jesus' team without actually doing anything?
     As I was reading this book, Not a Fan (hence where I got the name for the post), God showed me some awesome things and helped me to really evaluated my relationship with God. Some many times choose to just be a fan of Jesus because what He calls us to do is to difficult, not popular, or we don't feel like doing it at the time. We only give Him half of our hearts instead of everything. We have to take a serious look at where we are in our relationship with God. 
    Throughout the year, our towns and cities have concerts with our favorite artist and bands. We'll plan for a group of us to go and for weeks leading up to it, we'll talk all about it. We seem to know everything about them, their favorite food, color, what their hair is like, etc (this is an area I seemed to have lacked in high school). We know all about them...but we don't "know" them. It works the same way with our faith. Fans of Jesus will know all about being a Christian. They'll know all the right bible answers, the books of the bible forwards and backwards, longest and shortest verses, and go to church each Sunday. However, they don't know Christ on a intimate and personal level. They know all about Him, but they don't know Him. Jesus isn't looking for that, but rather for that personal relationship with Him, for us to follow Him. It's more than just knowing about Jesus, it's getting to know Christ.
     In high school, we love to focus on the outside. How we look, how we dress, how we act around certain people. We want to be popular, to fit in, and the like. However, we're missing what really matters, the heart. So many times we want to put on a mask as Christians. We want to follow all the rules, go to church every Sunday and Wednesday, and we get guilt ridden when we screw up. But that's not what truly matters. God cares about our attitudes towards and where our hearts are. Are we trying to honor God, are we striving to know God better, are we focusing on trying to follow Jesus? It's not about all the rituals and traditions, but rather that intimate relationship with Jesus. Jesus already paid the price for our sins, so when we screw up, we gotta get back up on our feet, ask for forgiveness and continue to strive to honor Him. It's all about the heart. It's not our good deeds that save us, it's our faith. 
     So are we ready to get up off the sidelines and follow Jesus with everything? To work on getting to know God and to strive to focus on the inside, not the outside. Are we ready to become followers, and not a fan? I know I am. Just like the book said,

I am not a fan


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Walking the walk, not just talking the talk

High school is a time in our lives when we have some of the closest friendships and interactions with people. It's easy to connect and relate to your fellow peers. Sometimes, we start sacrificing in ways that we shouldn't, just to fit in, make new friends or be "popular". We got to church on Sundays and Wednesdays, but the rest of the time, it's all about us. Maybe it isn't because of friends, or people, but rather that we are too busy, don't have the time, or not willing to fully surrender to God. Whatever the reasons, we talk the talk, but we don't walk the walk. It's time that we step up to the plate and start to give God everything and actually live out the lives He has called us to live.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder.
That is James chapter 2:18-19 and it's so true for many of us. We go through life talking about how we love God, go to church on Sundays and Wednesdays but we never actually put our faith into action. Later in verse 26 it says that faith without works is dead. James compares those who don't have faith to be just like the demons who believe in God but don't live for Him. So what are we doing? Isn't it time that we start living for God with all of our hearts.
Living out our faith isn't always easy. We get wrapped up in the things off the world and fitting in. The girl that wants to be a light for God, but doesn't cause she wants to fit in. The guy that wants to do the right thing, but can't stay off the computer late at night. The athlete that knows he is in an influential person yet still sets the wrong example. It's something we all go through at some point in our lives and we have to be willing to take a hard look and decide that we are going to start giving God everything...To show people our faith by our works. Are you willing to take a stand, give God everything, and start walking the Christian walk?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Reliance on the Spirit

High school is a huge transition for us. We move out of the hand holding stages of middle school, and into becoming young adults eventually graduating a moving out into the world. All of this happens in a period of 4 years. It's a lot to take on, and we're going to make mistakes. It's just like the old saying, "We're only human", and it's right, we are only human and being human comes with that natural ability to make mistakes. That is why we simply can't do it on our owns, and still live a Godly life that honors our Lord. The thing is, God knows. He isn't going to sit up in Heaven and watch us struggle through life, He wants to help us succeed and glorify Him. Psalms 121:1-2, "I life my eyes unto the hills, where does my help come from? My helps comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth." It's reassuring that God is here to help us, and He does that through the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
  1. So let's take a look at the Holy Spirit, God's way of helping us. In a book by Frances Chan, called "Forgotten God" there is a chapter called Theology of the Holy Spirit 101 which takes a look at the Holy Spirit. We'll take a look at some of the points that Chan makes. The Holy Spirit is God. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” The terms God and Holy Spirit are used interchangeably, showing that the Holy Spirit is Go.
  2. The Holy Spirit is our Counselor. "16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever." Jesus was talking to the disciples in John 14:16, when He was telling them that eventually He would die and go to be at the right hand of the Throne of God. But He tells us that God will send a Counselor that will be with us forever, to guide us, and to watch over us through life.
  3. The Holy Spirit knows God. "10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God." 1 Corinthians 2:10-12
  4. The Holy Spirit prays for us." 27 And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." It's amazing to know that the Holy Spirit, one of the Trinity and God, prays for us because as it says an early verse, we don't know how to pray adequately.
This is just scratching the surface of the awesomeness of the Holy Spirit. The beauty of it all is that we can take part of it. Matter of fact, the bible says that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. With all the flaws and mistakes we have made, why wouldn't we want to rely on the amazing power of God?
We run into a lot of stuff, grades, stress, temptation, peer pressure, etc. But despite all of these things, Jesus says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power if made perfect in weakness. " When we are to weak, like we always are, that is when God is strong. That is really amazing to know. So when we are weak, we have to rely on the Spirit.
"Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the desire of the flesh." Galatians 5:16. When we walk in the Spirit, relying on Him, then we honor God with our lives and lead a Godly life. Well, what does walking in the Spirit look like? Simply living life for God. Getting into the Word, praying and daily putting on the Armor of God (Armor of God can be found in Ephesians 6:10-18). When we don't, we get into all kinds of sins, like it shows in Galatians 5:19-21, just a few verses after the one about walking in the Spirit. However, when we do walk in the Spirit, put on the full armor of God and rely on the Holy Spirit, we display the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Walking in the Spirit can lead us to do awesome things, things that will change the world, just like Brooke did.
Brooke Bronkowski was a young 14 year old girl who was completely in love with Jesus. In middle school, she started a bible study on her school campus and she used her babysitting money on bibles that she could give out to all of her unsaved friends. She was truly in awe and love with God. During her freshmen year in high school, Brooke was in a car accident while going to the movies. Her life ended when she was just 14, but her legacy of Christ certainly didn't. Almost 1500 people attended Brooke's memorial service where people from her high school read poems about her love of God. Everyone talked about her joy and her example. The pastor shared the gospel and invited those who wanted to be saved to come forward. There was over 200 students on their knees praying. Ushers handed them each a bible, the same bibles that were in Brooke's garage for all her friends. In one day, Brooke lead more people to the Lord than most will in a lifetime, all because of her faith and her willingness to rely on God.

The same Spirit who lead Paul to preach to the known world of that time, who opened up the Red Sea to save Moses and the Israelites, the same Spirit who created all the earth....is the same Spirit that we have been given to us as believers. So, will we continue to go through life relying on our own strength, just going through the motions? Or will we, like Brooke, Paul and some many others, rely on the Holy Spirit to do amazing, world changing things for God?