Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Lately I have strayed away from studying the Gospels. I’ve purposely avoided them making the excuse to myself that I’ll get more out of these books from Paul rather than trying to “understand Jesus”. You see when I read the Gospels I seem to over think a lot. I will read Matthew and try to find the “deepest meaning” or “what Jesus is really trying to say”. And it becomes exhausting and really not enjoyable to be honest because I just get confused or read too much into something making my own interpretation. Now let me be clear, I’m not saying that there is something wrong with studying the Gospels. There is nothing wrong with looking at what Jesus says on a deeper level, and there is nothing wrong with interpreting Scripture (As long as its rightfully dividing scripture, 2 Timothy 2:15), but what I am talking about is all this pressure I feel to right now understand everything in front of me in the Gospels. I feel like since this is Jesus, the Son of God, the greatest teacher/Discipler, the master of the universe, if He is speaking then I must hear and I must get right everything he is telling or trying to tell me. To be honest its overwhelming and so I have been backing off and avoiding it. So I, a Christian, am intimated by the Gospels, not because of its message but because of all the lessons that can possibly be learned and I want to know them all at once! The Gospels are where we find our standard of living as a Christian! We are to reflect Jesus and to walk as He walked (1st John 2:6)! But you see, instead of letting the Holy Spirit work through me, I have entertained this thought that I am capable of doing this for Him. I can follow this order and be good! But no, NO I can not! It is the work of the Spirit in me! The Gift I have received that works in me, with me! making me capable but not on my own, I must walk with Him, in Him, I must ABIDE! Or all of this fret is but a feeble attempt of pride and self righteousness. If I abide I will learn the lessons the Gospels have for me, in His timing, and His will, as He is preparing me for His ministry. All of scripture pushes you to the Gospels and are all centered around the Great I Am(Jesus Christ).

Now that I have seen my fault I pray for this, I pray that my heart be thirsty for the Gospels. I pray that the Spirit continuously shows me more and more truth and Love of the Gospels. I pray that I abide in Jesus so that I may be fruitful, John 15:4. I pray that I run from my pride and remember His Grace, I pray that I seek no self righteousness, Galatians 2:17-21. I pray that I just Enjoy Jesus in the Gospels and sit at his feet as a child listening to the tales of a wise man. I pray for patience, for Lord your will be done. And Lord help me in my times of unbelief, and restore my Joy as I let it so easily slip away. And I pray that it will bring me to a better confidence in sharing the Gospel. Thank you Lord for the abundant blessings you give me that sometimes I fail to see.

 Galatians 2:17-21-

But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

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When I came back to Off the Wall after the summer I had the task of leading a whole new house of interns. I had some time before they all got here to settle in to the new house and just figure out what standards I wanted to set and what expectations I had for the house this year. I wanted to make sure I was leading these new guys like adults and not like the kids I lead at camp. These guys were adults and I expected that from them. I expected a commitment to learn and a level of teachablity to match. They were coming here, and I was going to hold them to the standard of the commitment that is discipleship.

When they all arrived my first observation was that this was a very young group. They were just in most aspects “young”, young in their maturity, some in age, and just young in life experience. For allot of them this was the first time someone wasn’t taking care of them. Off the Wall was the first real step outside of home. Off the Wall provided the bear needs and anything extra they would have to provide themselves. They quickly discovered what were needs and what were simple luxuries that they never thought about. It was interesting seeing them slowly discover how little we actually need.

I started to get a pretty good picture of what God had set before me. I knew allot of these lessons would take time and investment before they would accept criticism and truly take what I would present to them. I was not their main discipler and they did not truly give me that authority to really push them yet. Now they said with their words that they wanted me too but as the old saying holds “actions speak louder than words.” This was fine for the beginning of the semester but as time went on I began to be disappointed in the level of improvement. Off the Wall is discipleship and community, and what I was seeing was an extreme neglect in community. Community has a tight hold on discipleship and when community is failing it seems discipleship fails as well. I began to get frustrated because I was trying so heard to improve this community but I saw an extreme lack of participation and effort from the interns to make this better. There was so much talk of “we could do this…” or “I think we need to do this…” but no action was ever taken. It was allot of expecting things to just… well happen.. This ate at me and I began to question if my expectations were to high for this group we have here… We had a very tight and unique group last year and I began to question if I was expecting it to be the same.

Well turns out having the expatiation of this group being last years group was present. So I adjusted that, but in analyzing my goals and expectations for these guys I saw Godly expectations and I refused to compromise on those. I would be failing them as a biblical leader if I lowered these goals and expectations for these guys. I wanted them to grow in Godliness and leadership. To become inspirational men of God. I expect growth and I expect relationships to deepen. I expect a commitment to discipleship because thats why they are here. What changed for me was my acceptance of the fact that it is okay for these guys to fail. To fail and learn and not expect them to always succeed. I am not responsible for their responses to teaching and growth, it’s up to them and they will take in as much as they allow themselves. All I can do is provide a push here and there and speak truth and leave them with their responsibility. I am not responsible for what they allow God to do in their lives.

Now in this new semester I have seen an amazing transformation in this group. They came back from break with a whole new passion for discipleship and what God has for them. They are so much more teachable and it shows. There is less talk of what we should be doing and more doing! I see much better time management, more conversation is biblical, and I just see a new Love for each other. Now I am so proud of these guys, these guys now show the passion and the Love for Jesus that I had only seen in spurts. I see the boldness that is required from Godly men and all of this just excites me! It really has been a transformation and I thank God for the work He has done in these men these past few months.

I’m thankful that I was allowed to be a part of the transformation to these saints. They are becoming striving men of God and I could never be happier with what the Lord has done with these guys. I’m really proud of them and I can’t wait to see what the Lord does with their lives if the continue to fallow in obedience and be men of God

“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.” Titus 2:2

“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.” 1 Timothy 6:12

The fall

The Result of the fall

The effects of the fall

The looking of God at this world and having to say “It’s Broken”

That simple childish phrase “It’s Broken” bears weight, it touches our hearts, it breaks our hearts

“It’s Broken” — it’s powerful, it speaks so much, it’s sad

It’s not tarnished, It’s not dirty

“It’s Broken”

When “It’s Broken” it’s either thrown away or you have to go to great lengths to fix it

When “It’s Broken” it’s out of order, it’s not functioning

When “It’s Broken” it’s not accomplishing its intended purpose

When “It’s Broken” it has been fractured or damaged and no longer in one piece, it’s rejected, defeated, or despairing.

“IT’S BROKEN”

Now there is pain, now there is impatience

Now there is killing, death, and work is hard

There is sickness, shame, crying, and starving

There is deformity, agony, and abomination

There is hate, jealousy, screaming, and yelling, shouting and war.

“IT’S BROKEN”

Children without parents, children beaten, children starving, children on the streets without home or care

Children without Love

Children stolen, twisted, killing, and crying

“IT’S BROKEN”

It’s broken

So for a while now I have been praying about the direction Ashley and I were going to take in living our lives together for Christ. What I mean is what were we going to do? were we going to stay in the states with Off the Wall making disciples, or were we goin to Guatemala and the Liga de Vida Nueva (New Life children’s home) to disciple the children there… both options were glorifying to God, both are lead by the command of Jesus to go forth and make disciples(The Great Commission Mathew 28:16-20) and both options are good (really there are three options because God could take us anywhere He wants and that could be neither of these options but that’s a whole other topic of discernment.) As I was seeking an answer in this decision I was making sure that I wasn’t choosing an option because it was the easiest or simply what I or Ashley wanted to do. I didn’t want to stay here simply because I was comfortable here and I didn’t want to go to Guatemala simply because that’s what she planned on before we got together, (I didn’t want to go there to just make her happy, because then my heart wouldn’t be in it) to go to Guatemala Jesus would have to break my heart for those kids because although I have a passion for kids and missions I didn’t break for these kids and I had an attachment here in the US. . We are becoming one so everything changes now, our previous commitments change, and our previous plans that we may have had for our lives change. We needed to find out now how we are going to best serve God together. We needed to find out how to have a united ministry. Through prayer and much Godly counsel and discussion it came down to these options; serving God here in the US making disciples, or going to Guatemala and serving the children’s home and disciplining the children and people there.

 

So this past week I attended “Mosaic” a young adult bible group where we come together to read the Word and be challenged. That night I was asked to help lead worship, Josh was playing the guitar and I was playing the cajon. So things started off normal we sang and worshiped and then Don came up to lead the discussion/message. The topic for the night was Discipleship, after showing a video Don got up and prayed to start things off. After he started with a question like “do you ever feel like all you hear is the pain of this world?” then something took him and he began to break down and cry, as I sat I began to cry with him. He collected himself and prayed a few more times, then asked what are we doing about it? Are we disciples? Do we act like it? he began to cry again. As I began to cry again all I could see was a child standing before me. The child and I were standing in the dirt and the child was looking up at me and smiling. I bent down to the child and put my hands on his shoulders looked into his little eyes and said “I want to help make you more like Christ, I Love you.” And I had children around me and I wanted to disciple them. My heart broke for these kids and somehow I knew that this represented the children in Guatemala. My heart was broken for these kids that I have only heard about and I wanted to help them, I wanted to invest in their lives and teach them how to be godly. Don collected himself finished his lesson with the Great Commission. Josh and I went up to finish up the night with a song and we sang “With Everything” and my heart just continued to break. By then end of the song all I could do was sit on my drum with my head in my arms crying, weeping for these children. I was filled with a Love and a desire for these kids, I knew now that this was the confirmation I had been praying for. The Lord did exactly what He needed to do to send me on this path, He broke my heart for the children that I will be going to disciple, He broke my heart specifically for them.

 

So now starts the final preparation of raising support and preparing to go to Guatemala with the Love of my life to do the work of discipleship in the lives of the children in Liga de Vida Nueva (New Life children’s home). This is going to be hard but I trust the Lord to lead me in the right direction and I trust Him to take Ashley and I through any challenge before us. I know this is crazy but here we go, we are going to Guatemala for a minimum of 2 years while facing the challenge of a newly wed life! But we Love Jesus and we Love each other so I think we will make it standing bright and strong for the Lord. I believe the Lord is taking us in this direction and I intend to obey.

 

Mathew 28:19-20– “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Well as you can see I have gotten two new quite large tattoos. I have a bear paw on the left and a lion paw on the right. These two tattoos basically take up my entire rib cage space and they took over 4 hours to complete. It was a long day on the table and it was quite a challenge for my body to lie there that long under the needles pressing the ink into my body. I knew these tattoos were going to be big, and I knew they were going to be a challenge to receive, so I needed to be sure of the reasons behind these tattoos. Which by now I’m sure you want to hear the story.

Well it all begins with the story of David and Goliath in 1st Samuel 17. The story is probably my favorite mere man in the Bible, the story of a young man anointed by the servant of the Lord (Samuel) to take the thrown and lead Gods Holy people. A man who with his faith was able to take the head of a giant and lay it at the feet of king Saul, the very man who he would take the throne from. An inspiring story that is taught in Sunday school at churches but they tend to leave little parts out… Like the removing of Goliath’s head haha. Or the shouting match between the two warriors where Goliath spits in the face of God and says he will rip David apart and leave him for the birds and the beasts to eat… or Davids response of “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”-1 Samuel 17:45-47 I encourage you to read the story yourself if you haven’t.

But to narrow the focus I want to take you to a particular part of the story, I want to take you to 1st Samuel 17:32-37 “And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”  And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”’  This is the part of the story where David is standing before Saul telling him he will fight the Philistine. For days the armies of Israel cowered at the thought of fighting this giant, even Saul the King was afraid and would not fight even though he was most likely the biggest man and most equipped man of his army. But when David arrived to deliver a package from his father to his brothers on the battle field he saw the tremendous lack of faith in the men of Israel and took it upon himself to silence the giant who insulted and shook his fist at the Lord our God. David knew that he was capable of defeating the giant for the Lord had delivered him the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear and this Philistine was no different he too would be defeated for the Glory of God. For this giant stood before the people of the Great and Holy God and spoke against God Himself and nothing stands against the Lord and remains for long, especially in the old testament. So David told Saul the story of how the Lord has prepared him in his faith with the lion and the bear and with the blessing of the king went to face the giant with the confidence given to him from the Lord.

What my tattoos represent is the “Lions” and “Bears” that God puts in our lives to build our faith for the battles ahead like a “Goliath Battle”. My tattoos are a symbol of the Power of the Lord to defeat anything before us in our path of a life Glorifying to God. A symbol of the preparation He gives us in our lives for challenging things ahead. And just a symbol of the Greatness and the Holiness that is our God and that nothing can stand in His way. Its a reminder that I need to work through the Lord and not myself. This tattoo represents allot of things I need to be reminded of, things that keep me confident in the Lord. When I can talk about my tattoos I get to share some of the “lions”, some of the “bears”, and some of the “Goliaths” of my life and bring God the Glory and point to Him. To point to my Savior, Provider, Defender, Lord, and King! And encourage others in the Faith

Sorry I haven’t wrote in a while… we don’t have internet at my house quite yet so its been difficult remembering to get this out when I have internet.

Any way moving on! It is so great to be back in Ohio, never thought I would say that coming from Michigan and all… But truly it is great to be back with my Off the Wall family. To be back in this community that constantly pushes me and asks hard questions. Questions that make me reflect on my actions and how to be a better man of God. I believe I’m where I’m most effective for the kingdom.

Being eternally effective, working for the eternal kingdom. What I mean by these words is doing things with eternal value, having conversation that go’s deeper than the here and now. For example lets say I go to Africa and put in a well for a village without water. Now you would say wow thats a really good thing and a great help to the people. I would respond with “yes it is good but its worthless! Its worthless because this world is but temporary, all these things will come to pass and return to dust “ All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? 22 So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?.”(Ecclesiastes 3:20-22) What I need to do is put in this well and tell them about something that could save their eternal souls! I need to give them the gospel! Because if I leave it at just a service of putting in a well what have I done? I have only served their physical flesh that will pass away. I didn’t feed the need of their souls! I didn’t tell them about Jesus our savior! I would have left without fulfilling the greatest command given to us as believers! “..Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned”(Mark 16) If I were to just leave I would leave them condemned until God sent someone else or revealed himself to them another way. (Although He is always revealing Himself through creation but without instruction we suck at seeing it) If I Loved the people enough to sacrifice time and money then why would I not tell them about the greatest gift revealed to man! JESUS CHRIST! We need to do more than simply do things for people we need to tell them why we do these good things! We do these Good things to be more Christ like, to Love people, Jesus Loves YOU!”

I believe we as Christians have moved to doing many good things but we seem to hesitate to give the the meat of our service. In all that we do we need to proclaim Jesus, thats part of the Great Commission “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This “go” is an as you go type of phrase, so as we go and do these great acts of service lets make it eternally effective and tell them about Jesus!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”–2Timothy 4:7-8

The greatest commandment is “Love the Lord God with all your heart soul mind and strength”(Mathew 22 and Mark 12) and Loving your neighbor as yourself(Love people) (Mathew 22 and Mark 12 Galatians 5:13-14). I think we blow over this verse all to often because in our culture the word Love is so overused. We read it and just brush over it and assume we know what it means. I say assume because if we really knew what it meant we would be acting very differently. Ask yourself “what dose it look like to Love God or to Love people?” You see I think we all know the answer to those questions but we hesitate to state them because we don’t want to feel convicted over our lack of Love. If you have ever actoully read your Bible then you really don’t have an excuse. To often do we reject truth and say “we don’t know” to make us feel better about our lack of action.

Any way back to my main topic of Loving God and Loving people. When I looked at it myself I came to the conclusion that the key to Love is in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends..” Like Francis Chan says in his book Crazy Love take the word Love in those verses and replace it with your name. When you read it in that way you instantly know what parts of Love you need to work on. You read and when you cross a part like “Shaun does not insist on his own way” you feel convicted because you know that you struggle with not doing things your way. Allot of times unless you have great standing with me I struggle with no doing it my way. Unless you can show me why your way is better is am reluctant to change. Now this is not me saying to be a push over and never stand for an idea you have but when your only reason for having your way is simply because its yours you need to check yourself.

Along with this I have found selflessness to be a root part in Love. Look at the versus again, its full of allot of submitting your will; patient and kind, not insist on its own way, and caring about how actions effect others; does not rejoice at wrongdoing, not envy or boast ect. The biggest act of selflessness we do, the complete giving up and submission of ourselves, should be directed at the one and only God. God wants us to Love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength! To do that we need to Give Him our all.

As my Love for God has grown so has my heart also been softened to Love people more. There is a reason that Love God is first then Love you neighbor is second. the reason is that if you Love God then you will Love people, and if you Love people the rest of the commandments will fall into place. As I grow here at Off the Wall I have seen this to be true. As God has broken my heart from its hardened rock into soft flesh with great feeling for Him so has my Heart broken for people. My heart breaks for suffering people and especially suffering children. Invisible Children has really been on my heart lately with it’s stand ageist this man who forces them into his army and forges evil into children. I have no money to give to them to help but I have joined the force of spreading awareness of this issue so that people with the resources to help will see and help however they can. Issues like this wouldn’t effect me so powerfully unless my Love for God and people had grown to the place it is now. Before I would hear these things and I would feel sad but get over it and move on, but now it’s impossible for me to just move on! When I am aware of such suffering the choice not to act is a nonexistent option. Love is to strong to sit there and do nothing.

For those who were wondering why I keep capitalizing the “L” in “Love” I do so because I am referring to the Overflowing Love from God. I capitalize it because its something directly connected to God so I capitalize it. True Love comes from God and the word holds importance.

Love God, Love people

The other day I stood in front of our houses ministry calender and I saw something that I really didn’t want to see. I saw that I only had about a month n a half left before the end of my first year at Off the Wall. So much time has passed and so much growth has happened. My love for The Lord has never been this strong and yet all I desire is to have so much more LOVE and so much more PASSION. There is so much more to be revealed to me in the word and I know that it will only increase my love for Jesus. My community here at Off the Wall has been the difference maker in my growth. They push me to be more like Jesus and they love me. We love each other. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We fight this battle together, this physical spiritual battle, this battle called life. We push each other every day to be more like Jesus and do our best to hold each other accountable. I love every single one of my new friends here. I don’t use the word love lightly and I mean it! This is why it breaks my heart to see that I only have about a month n a half left with them. In most cases people only come for nine months and then go into life, so at the end of this semester we will split and go separate ways and most likely not see each other in person for a long time. We go from spending almost all of our time together to meeting possibly once a year. Now I’m coming back next year so I will be coming back to a few of them but three forths of the group will be all new members. It will be a completely different community not bad but different. I have such a love for community, biblical community, and it rips me up inside to know I will be away from it. It will be good to find a temporary biblical community when I go back home this summer but it just wont be as strong as the one I have here. My heart will urn for its great return next fall.

I love the people God has brought in my life and I cant wait to share eternity with all of them. Together in the eternal worship of Jesus. My heart is heavy for all of you.

2nd Corinthians 13:11-14 “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”