Blameless.

Cross4-2

As I was preparing to write this post, I was flipping through some of my favorite parts of the Bible to see if anything stood out to me to write about this week and I found something really cool in 1 John 11. It says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I think it is so true that we try to convince ourselves that we’re perfect. That we’re better than everyone else. We’re better Christians because our sin was not nearly as big as someone else.

I’m a total perfectionist. I know that over and over again I have lied to myself saying that, “it isn’t that big a deal,” rationalizing something that I had done wrong. I’m afraid of being judged or others seeing it and thinking less of me—lame, right? But, I know in my heart that God doesn’t do this to us when we fall short.

Because of grace I don’t have to be ashamed of what I’ve done wrong. I can ask forgiveness and learn from that mistake and be better for it.

I love Ephesians 1:4 that says, “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 to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” I think it’s so cool that God decided way ahead of time that we would be forgiven for everything we were yet to do, before we even did it. Christ came and died so we could stand at the cross in surrender, completely clean of everything we have done and are yet to do. I am not done making mistakes. I can strive for perfection all I want but that won’t change the nature I was born into. I was born into a world of sin and sadness and hate, but I was saved and born again when Jesus forgave me.

One of my favorite songs is “Clean” by Natalie Grant that says, “there’s nothing too dirty that you can’t make worthy. You wash me in mercy. I am clean.” Even when you’re feeling ashamed or even inadequate, God can use the most broken things to shine his light. Live BLAMELESS in the wonder of His grace.

 

-Cassidy

How to Find Your Life’s Calling.

As a teen, the future is exciting as well as terrifying. The direction you decide to take has unlimited possibilities. I’ve got to tell you, if my future was entirely in my hands, I’d be a mess. Sometimes I wish I could open the Bible and miraculously discover every step I need to take in life. Don’t you wish you could find what God’s call for you is?

In early 2012, I felt the Lord calling me to “full-time ministry”. Basically, my future full-time job will be for the service of God. Let’s be honest, a soon-to-be 11 year old probably didn’t grasp what it meant to be called to full-time-ministry. Let’s be honest again. Does a soon-to-be 16 year old grasp what it means to be “called”? Judging by the title of this post, “How to Find Your Life’s Calling“, you probably hope I do.

At first, my definition of being called is different than it is now. The night I told my parents how I felt, my dad was describing what he thought I was feeling. That’s the night I decided I was called to “full-time-ministry”. One thing he used to describe it was, “You could be a Pastor, or Assistant Pastor, or an Evangelist.” To a deep thinking 11, I thought a lot about that sentence. I was “Called to full-time-ministry”. That meant I will be a Pastor, Assistant Pastor, or Evangelist. Those are my only options because “I’m called”.

You’ve caught on by now. I’m about to talk about how I limited my options, and should be open to anything for Jesus. But, let’s get that out of the way for a moment. What about the minority of people who aren’t called to “full-time-ministry”? I’ve always had the sub-conscious mentality that people who don’t feel the call to full-time-ministry automatically don’t need to listen for a call from God. So what is a call? If your phone rings, is it logical to assume that you know who is calling? A ringing phone could have a million possibilities as to why your being called. So why would I assume that God’s calling has just a few possibilities? A call is simply God’s way of getting a hold of you. So, I guess what I’m saying is, when your waiting on a call from God, don’t leave your phone on silence.

So, how do I find my call? Romans 6:10 says,

“The death He (Jesus) died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. “

 

The answer is found in Jesus’ example for us. “but the life He lives, He lives to God” You will never hear God’s call unless you live for Him. God has a door He wants you to walk through, but you will never find it if you stand still in your walk with God. You must follow God’s Word in your daily life.

That’s the secret. You MUST live for Him. I know no other way to find God’s will for my life. And you will never find your lives calling unless you listen for God’s call and live for Him.

-Caleb

Bitterness

Bitterness is something that is so hard to deal with. It’s something that can build up so easily in someone’s life, and really take hold of and control you. I think most of the time we don’t even mean to be bitter about something, but all of the sudden it just completely consumes us. I think the worst part of it is that we try to justify being bitter at someone or something, but that is most definitely not Biblical.
Ephesians 4:31 says “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” I think this lays it out pretty clearly. This is saying that having bitterness in our hearts is not acceptable. This is easier said then done in some scenarios. Sometimes people can hurt you so deeply, and you really just want God to be okay with you hating them, but unfortunately that is not the case.
Being bitter towards someone actually ends up affecting us more than it will ever affect them. In most situations the person you are bitter towards isn’t even aware of your feelings towards them. We spend so much thought and time thinking on all our feelings towards them, it consumes us completely, and it doesn’t rock their world at all. They go on living their lives without knowing anything about how we feel. So all of that anger just ends up tearing you down, and making you feel sad and depressed. Our original intention was to be mad at that person, when in reality we’ve just ruined ourselves. When you think about it from this angle it makes sense why God just wants us to steer clear from this.
God isn’t trying to give us some ridiculous rule. He is actually trying to protect our hearts. Bitterness is a joy eatiing disease, that will destroy your life.
But how do we protect ourselves from getting bitter? If someone hurts your feelings, the first thing you need to do is pray. Pray before you ever confront them as this will also help you control what you say. People are more willing to listen when you confront them peacefully and with a good attitude. Once you’ve prayed for God’s wisdom in what to say, you go to them and tell them how you feel. This still may not produce the desired result, and in most cases this is when the bitterness starts to build. Once again you pray. Pray that God will help you let go of any angry feelings you may have. Pray for that person. They may just be a sad and hateful person, and you may be the only person that would take the time to pray for them. I think prayer and a good relationship with God are the best ways to defend ourselves towards bitterness. This was a good reminder for me, and I hope it will be for you as well.

The Need for Prayer

When was the last time you sat down and prayed? I’m not talking about the thirteen-and-a-half memorized words you repeat before each meal. I’m talking about genuine fellowship with the Lord. Can you remember? This is the sad reality about the state of most Christians.

Take a look at these statistics.

The Need for Prayer (Corrected 2)

 

 

I was pretty stunned when I discovered these facts. How could America, one of the most Christian nations, be so oblivious to prayer? When did prayer become something we’re so comfortable with ignoring? Even if you don’t feel like the as the statistics I just listed describe you, I think all of us can say our prayer life is not what it should be.

Why to pray

Why am I making prayer such a big deal? Well, because it is a big deal. No one would ask a Christian why the Bible is so important to them. It’s the foundation for our entire faith. It’s God’s Word. God speaks to us through the Bible. If we love to hear from God, wouldn’t God want to hear from us? God describes our prayers as a sweet smell. In other words, He likes to hear from us. The Bible and Prayer work together as the communication between God and man. Don’t underestimate how important prayer actually is!

When to pray

The first verse that comes to mind  is 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” When I feel convicted to grow my prayer life, this verse is the one that I immediately think of. But this often used verse can feel like a hollow command too extreme to obey. To me anyway, this verse sets the bar so high, it sometimes makes me feel like my prayer life will never be good enough.

When I was little, I had a habit of talking to myself. All the time I would be carrying on a conversation with myself. One day I got the bright idea to talk to God instead of Caleb. “That is such a pretty bird!” It would seem like I was talking to no one. But I knew Jesus heard me bragging on His creation. As I got older, talking to myself got embarrassing, and I quit my sweet habit without even knowing it. I accidentally left a constant state of prayer. If a kid can tell his thoughts to Jesus, why can’t a teenager pray without ceasing? I think that’s what the verse means. Not literally always praying, but simply communicating with Jesus.

What to pray

Prayer is not just about talking to Jesus about the pretty bird. Philippians 4:6 says,

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Did you notice I bolded the word requests? The beauty of the ability to make a request to God may be too beautiful. Recently I realized that my prayers consisted entirely of requests. “Help me to…” “Help my…” “Please…” Am I using prayer as a service to worship God, or to make God a service help me? Look back at the statistic “What Americans Pray For”. Other than “God’s Greatness”, they’re all needs. Don’t take me wrong. I think praying for the salvation of the lost, for instance, is a vital duty of a Christian. I’m not discouraging making requests to God. How could I? This verse obviously encourages it. What I’m saying is, when we get to Heaven, and we don’t need anything, what will you talk to God about?  Will you tell Him continually how grateful you are for all He’s given you? Or how marvelous He is? Think hard about that. Find an answer and add it to your prayers.

I hope you are challenged by this. I don’t think it would hurt anyone to examine their prayer life. Pray that God will help you grow in Him. Witness the power of prayer for yourself!

-Caleb

 

Count It All JOY

JOY_Render

I’ve been thinking about Joy recently. We’ve talked about Joni and Friends Family Retreats before on the blog and Joy was the theme of our camp last year! It has kind of become the theme of my year and I find myself thinking and reflecting on the verse and the lessons that were taught very often. The theme verse was Nehemiah 8:10, “…do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

We talked about this for two weeks out of the summer and I don’t think a day has gone by without me thinking about it. Whether I’m just thinking about and missing my friends from camp or wearing my t-shirt from last year, with JOY written in humongous letters, it’s hard to forget about. Especially on rough days, God has constantly been reminding me of this verse. It has often made me think about the difference between joy and happiness. The world would probably say they are the same. Wikipedia and dictionary.com would probably call them synonymous. But I think joy is deeper than a feeling and I think joy is only found in Jesus. The definition of happiness according to Google is “the quality or state of being happy”, which I think is correct. Happiness is a state. Happiness fades away when things start getting rough. In reality, I am NOT always happy.

Anyone reading this can probably say that they’ve been UNhappy at some point in time- some may be unhappy a lot. My problem is with the definition of joy. The definition to me is too similar to happiness, as defined by the world. In James 1 it says, “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Why in the world would we consider it a joyful occasion to go through rough times?! When I think of hard times in my life, I do not consider them joyful. But, when you read further it says, “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Although I may not think my trials were joyful, I do know that testing and trials have been some of the biggest learning and growing experiences for me. That’s why we consider our trials joyful.

Joy goes deeper than just being happy or being temporarily satisfied with circumstances.

I have joy and I can give thanks in  circumstances. Jesus lives in us, when we accept him and ask him to rule in our hearts and guide our lives. Our joy is rooted within us. Like it says in John 16:22, “So also, you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” People can make me unhappy. People don’t satisfy me, but Jesus does and because of the contentment I find in Jesus, I have his joy that no one can take from me.

This is a Test

Sin. This small word was big enough to send me to an eternity in Hell. For a death so unimaginable, God sent His Son to die to save us from it. Sin is like an explosion that can destroy a person. But where did it start? What spark lit the explosion? Most willingly credit Satan with lighting the fuse. “I was tempted!” “The Devil made me do it!” People use temptation as a scapegoat for their sins. Eve tempted Adam. Satan tempted Eve. Temptation is literally the oldest excuse in the book! So what exactly is temptation? Do we really understand what it is?

In the past I viewed temptation as another consequence of the sin curse. With pain, suffering, death, and temptation, temptation seems like just one of the things we have to endure because of sin. But temptation does not fall in that category. Think about it. Temptation existed in a perfect world. Adam and Eve were tempted before sin was introduced to the world. So then, if not another punishment, what is the point of temptation?

1 Corinthians 10:13 says,

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

This is a beautiful verse that reminds us how active God is in our lives! But I want to focus on one line, “But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.” Wait, wait, wait. God will not tempt us above what we’re able? God actually has a role in temptation!?! That feels sketchy, right? Why would God have anything to do with something that leads to sin? Let’s think about Job. When Satan wanted to tempt Job, he had to come to the throne room of God to ask permission. God granted permission to Satan to tempt Job by destroying his life, as a way to test Job. Every time Satan wanted to do more, he had to come back to God for more permission. Considering the verse we read a moment ago, we know that Job was never given more than he could handle. That says a lot about Job! But also a lot about God. The story of Job tells us what God’s role is in temptation. Temptation is of Satan, by permission of God. Every time you feel tempted to do something wrong, the devil has been given God’s permission to do so. To say that Satan doesn’t need permission would imply that God is not powerful enough to stop him.  In any event, don’t forget that God will make a way to escape it.

A Christian will face bucket loads of temptation every day as a test from God. Job set the bar so high that when we have the self control not to raise our voice in an argument, we still wouldn’t dare compare ourselves with Job. But it’s the same thing.

Temptation and tests are seen as separate. Temptation from Satan, tests from God. But really they’re  the same event. Life trials are nothing more to Satan than trying to get you to turn your back on God. To God they’re  an experience that will bring us closer to Him. Your choices every time you’re tempted are to submit to Satan, or to submit to God. Remember to view all temptation as a test directly from God. In the end, you will be closer to Him.

-Caleb

“GO and Make Disciples”

Here it is guys! The grand finale of our little Easter series. I love Easter. Not just because of the bunnies, yellow flowers, and chocolate (even though, chocolate is like on the list of my top favorite things ever in the universe) but because I love the fact that there’s a holiday to remind ourselves of the cross. I wanted to do this little series of blog posts because I don’t want us to loose the wonder and awe of the cross. It’s so easy to go to church on Sunday in our nicest outfits, listen to the Easter story for the thousandth time, and leave to go eat a big meal and totally miss the point. I mean, family time is great, but I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t die just so we could have one Sunday a year for a family get together. There’s a lot of power in just taking a second to simply think about what really happened. I hope you learned a lot the past two weeks reading Briley and Caleb’s posts. (if you didn’t read them, click the links to read them: week 1, week 2)

Every book in the Bible tell a different story, all leading up to this moment. The moment when Jesus would come, take the sin of the world on himself, and die. But there is a happy ending to this story! He didn’t stay in the grave.

So, just a recap of what’s been going on in this story up until this point:
In John 13, before the whole “let’s kill Jesus” fiasco, Jesus had a special dinner with his disciples- his 12 best friends. Before they ate, it says that the devil had already put it on Judas’ heart to betray Jesus. Jesus knew this, yet, he took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and began washing the feet of his disciples. Peter was like, “Jesus, why are you washing our feet?” and Jesus said, “It’s okay. You don’t understand this now, but later you will,” and right there, Jesus set the example of what it means to be a servant. Now, Jesus knows that one of his best friends is about to sell him out and he just washed his feet. If that’s not humility, I don’t know what is! Jesus and his disciples ate dinner and Jesus went to pray in a garden, the night before his crucifixion. Judas knew he would be there so he sent the guards to arrest Jesus there. Jesus was found guilty in the trial (WHAT?!) so he picked up his cross and carried it to where he would be crucified. They hung Jesus on that cross and killed him. It was all part of the big plan. It still amazes me that as I’m complaining and feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, Jesus literally had the weight of the world on his shoulders. The sin of the world hung on the cross with Jesus at the expense of his life. When Jesus finally died, he was buried in a tomb and it was sealed shut. BUT WAIT- there’s more. Did you really think Jesus died and that was the end of it? He didn’t stay in the grave. He came back to life. Cool right? I’m imagining fire works at this point. Maybe even confetti and a few strobe lights. Sorry for the long recap, but it was important to set the stage.
After the resurrection, Jesus stuck around for another 40 days before he returned to Heaven to be with the Father. In this time, he came to several people, proving that he had, in fact, risen, leaving no room for doubt in their minds. (1 Corinthians 15:6) These 40 days were the last 40 days for Jesus to equip his disciples to do his work after he was gone. In the gospels, the moments leading up to the ascension were recorded. They say that Jesus led the disciples to Galilee. He said “Go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”(Matt 28) This is the passage I want to focus on today. If God, in human form, gave a command as his last words, we should probably pay attention to them.
So, how do we apply this great command to our lives now, as teens (or adults) today?
GO. This is the big keyword. I’ve heard a lot of preachers teach entire sermons on this one word. I mean, it’s a good word, but let’s not over complicate this. Get up off the couch. Get up, and go make disciples! The disciples were Jesus’ best friends who were tasked with sharing the good news of Christ with the world. As Christians, that’s our job! We are the disciples, carrying out the work of Jesus after he has left. Maybe instead of sitting in your exclusive friend group at school or at church, just take a few minutes to sit with the person that no one likes. It’s so simple to show someone the light of Christ by being kind. Show the love of Jesus by going out of your way to serve someone, as Jesus did to his disciples.
LIVE a life that displays Christ. Don’t hide or be ashamed of your relationship with Jesus. Yeah, some people are going to judge, but I’d rather be judged for being real than be loved for pretending to be someone I’m not. So live boldly and unashamed for Jesus.
REMEMBER that Christ is still here moving in our lives through the Holy Spirit. Galatians 4:6-7 says, “and because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”” When we receive Christ into our hearts by believing in him and asking him to be the center of our lives, his Holy Spirit lives in us and gives us new life. At that point, we no longer are living for ourselves but Christ lives in us, guiding us. (Galatians 2:20)

3 Reasons Why the Resurrection  Had to Happen

“It is finished!” It had finally happened. Jesus paid the unpayable price. Sin is conquered. The veil was torn. The gift of salvation is waiting on anyone who will repent! Can you imagine standing at the foot of the cross as Jesus shouted “It is finished”? Can you imagine watching Him bow His head and die? Light overtakes darkness as the clouds roll back. There hangs my hope, nailed to a cross. But Jesus is not done! Three days pass and Jesus resurrected from the dead! That story is so exciting! But have you ever wondered why? He’s God, so could he have just stayed in Heaven? Did he really have to come back?

These questions jumped in my mind a few weeks ago. Why exactly did the resurrection have to happen?

1. It was prophesied

While its not mentioned much in the Old Testament, Jesus spoke a lot about his coming death, burial, and resurrection. Matthew 16:21 says,

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

In this verse, Jesus very clearly stated that He will die and rise again. He knew exactly what the future held. Although His disciples did not understand what He was talking about, Jesus’ words were remembered. Because Jesus cannot lie, the resurrection had to take place.

2. It proved God’s acceptance

So, Jesus said it would happen. It had to because He said it would. But for what reason? Jesus paid for sin the moment he cried “It is finished”. He gave Himself for us by His power. The Bible says in Galatians 1:1,

“Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)”

This is one of many verses that say God raised Him (Jesus) from the dead. God raised Him by his power to show that He accepted Jesus’ payment for sin. Obviously, Jesus had the power to raise Himself from the dead, because Jesus is God. But the emphasis on God the Father resurrecting Jesus Himself, places the emphasis of God accepting the payment for sin.

3. The big picture

When I was studying this story, I noticed a 3rd reason it had to happen. A picture it displayed. Romans 6:4 says,

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

This verse discretely paints a beautiful picture. Jesus was dead, but overcame death itself by the power of God. He breathed new life as He walked in the glory of the Father. We people are living daily in the darkness of sin. As impossible to overcome as death. But by the mercy of Jesus Christ, we are resurrected and “we also should walk in newness of life”! I love this picture! This picture touches my life as a Christian, because I now breath the same life Jesus breathed for me! This is an exciting reason the resurrection had to happen.

Only a few weeks ago, before I studied this story, Easter was just an exciting testament to the power of Jesus Christ. But now, I know how vital it actually is in application to my life. I pray I never forget these awesome reasons why the resurrection had to happen.

-Caleb

Salvation Story

Today I want to talk about the wonderful gift of salvation. I was saved at the young age of four. It was a Wednesday night, my dad preached a sermon about salvation. He taught on heaven and hell, he said that we were all sinners in need of a Savior. I was instantly convicted, even at such a young age. No one had to convince me I was a sinner, I knew I was.
As soon as we got home I told my parents I wanted to get saved, I said I didn’t want them to go to heaven without me when I died. My dad said for me to follow him and he would show me how I could be saved. He explained again the whole salvation story, telling me about how Jesus died on the cross to pay not just everyone elses sins, but mine personally. I knew more than ever that my desicion to get saved was the right decision. We knelt down beside the couch and I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins, and come into my heart and save me. I was so happy at the thought of spending eternity in heaven with Jesus and my family and friends.
As Easter is approaching we need to remember the real reason we celebrate this holiday. God loves us so much that he sent his only son Jesus to earth to die on a cross for our sins. the BIble says in Romans 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” It’s as simple as that. All we have to do is believe him, ask forgiveness for our sins, and ask him into our hearts. The simplicity of salvation is so beautiful to me. Jesus died so that we might live, What more do we need to know? I would encourage everyone reading to ask Jesus into their heart if they’ve not already done so, you’re life will be so richly blessed. I have never one time regretted my decision.
This is the first of a three part blog about Jesus’ life, death, and resurection. As we want to make sure The Easter story is correctly portrayed. I hope the story of salvation can one day reach every ear. Go out and tell people about the wonderful story of salvation, so they too can have an eternal life in Heaven.
-Briley