Works of God

We are thankful that God is always at work causing team members to look more like Jesus. We desire to testify of the grace of God in our lives, and that through the working of Christ in us, you will be encouraged in your relationship with Jesus.

Bearing Fruit in the Vine

vinebranchsmallBearing a Fruitless Work in Self, Bearing All Fruit in the Vine

Are there things in your life you feel are out of control? Do these questions come to mind: "Does God really care?" "Does God love me?" "Does God understand me?" "Does God have my best in mind?" Because of my naturally fearful flesh, these are questions I am tempted to answer "no" to every day.

I often think that I am the best one to understand me, that I have my best in mind, and that I am the only one who knows how to love me better than anyone else. So, when I have finished doing all of my Christian responsibilities I feel more in control and secure. However, when responsibilities or situations get too difficult, then its time to go to God.

"Lord, I pray that You would help me to do__________." Many times I find myself praying this prayer. A cry of despair and a real need of help from God. But, most of those times, I regret to say that those prayers were prayed after a long period of self-effort attempts to live the Christian life. A Christ-less mindset bearing a fruitless work. Reading the first few chapters of Jerry Bridges' "True Community" my eyes have been exposed to this life-style in its raw form. My countless efforts to be God in my life are worth nothing.

Are there times when I do live righteously and honestly desiring God, even in my self-effort? No, because without God's enabling, I can do nothing. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." This means that my salvation and any good or righteous thing I do is from God. I am His child. What an awesome thought, that I can rest in the fact that I am a sinner and can do no good, so I need Christ. Therefore any good that comes from me is because I am in Christ. I am ever fixed in the Vine, who is Christ. Christ, who bears all fruit of righteousness, flows through me. I can, in fact live this life, not because of anything I do, but because He lives in me. So, now my prayer should look more like, "Lord, I pray You will enable me to do ____________ because Christ lives in me."

-Sarah Roe

 

Open Hands

openhands“Well John, I’ve noticed that you’re not very open handed.”

Have you ever been just flat out humbled? We all have experiences that humble us to a degree. Whether it is something catastrophic like a hurricane that takes away a family home, or something small like being out witted in an argument of words. Regardless of the situation, humbling experiences can create great change in our lives. And more recently that particular humbling comment has revealed a new area I have been overlooking in my walk with Christ. It is a kind thing when someone lovingly points out your shortcomings, we all need a Nathan to come and say “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:1-7 ).

“Could I be so blind?” was my first thought. However, I took the comment to heart, and I began to take care to see my reactions. It didn’t take long over the next few days to see that the comment was more than fair. Whether it was with my finances, my time, or my possessions it seemed that I would give out of necessity and almost begrudgingly each time. My spirit was neither one that realized a right view of the body of Christ, nor one that had submitted to God what he owned.

Sharing and giving are all over the NT. We as members of the family of God, united in Christ, are to share with God’s people who are in need (Romans 12:13 ). The early church was found pooling their resources in order to meet needs (Acts 2:44-45 ). Healthy biblical relationships within the body will exhibit a willingness to share our possessions with one another. We are one organism, a unique community built on a relationship with Christ, with each part enabling the other to enjoy and glorify God by meeting on another’s needs through a continual flowing back and forth of our possessions, money, and time.

In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells the parable of Talents. A ruler gives to three men different amounts for them to steward while he is away. The two good stewards invest and use the talents that he has given them and they create gain. The third steward sits on the gift and does nothing with it and makes no return. God has entrusted us possessions, money, and time for us to steward. The operative word is “entrusted.” One definition of discipleship is “expending my resources that others may become more like Christ.” I pray for this kind of heart toward others.

If you were to ask someone right now if I had been radically transformed into the most open-handed person you’d meet, I doubt you would get a positive answer. As I stumble through seasons of closed hands, repentance, and willingly opening my hands back up I know God is working righteousness in me through the enabling Holy Spirit. He is faithful to complete the work that he has begun in me (Phil. 1:6 ) Although, occasionally it feels as though God is prying my hands open through trail. It is when I open them willingly He has yet to leave me wanting. Open your hands.

-John Moon

   

Jonah and SLC

rebawogfall12Recently, I completed ChurchWorksMedia’s book Gospel Meditations for Missions. This happened to coincide with our team being in Salt Lake City for six weeks this fall. There were many thoughts from this devotional book that were a blessing and a challenge to me, but one continually comes to my mind. The story of Jonah was referenced many times in this book. God had sent Jonah to Nineveh to preach the gospel. Jonah was very upset though and sought to run from God. We know the story – Jonah was thrown into the sea, swallowed by a great fish, then spit up on shore several days later. Jonah eventually made it to Nineveh where God sent a great revival! The city repented and turned to God! You would think this would make Jonah leap for joy, but not so. Jonah hated Nineveh and was angry that God had saved them. God used a plant as an object lesson for Jonah. God caused a plant to grow and provide shelter from the heat for Jonah. The next day, God killed the plant and Jonah became angry. Jonah pitied the plant, which he had no part in making. God asked Jonah, “And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons…” This is the part that caught my attention. God knew every single person that lived in Nineveh. He was their Creator; He knew everything about them and cared for them. God in His compassion wanted to save them! How many times in the Old Testament does He reveal Himself as being the Lord, who is slow to anger and quick to mercy, abounding in steadfast love and forgiveness.

This compassion of my God was a wonderful reminder to me as I spent six weeks in Salt Lake City. I don’t hate the people there like Jonah hated the Ninevites, but I had much to learn from that story. The city is very dark spiritually with almost half the population being Mormon and the other half reactionary against religion and God. Yet God knows each one. He created them and cares about His creation. This knowledge of God’s love for the lost has impacted the way I pray and live. I’ve seen in my life dullness towards evangelism. I wouldn’t really see people as souls as I lived each day. I’m praying God would break my heart. May I see people as God sees them – with great compassion and mercy. God wants to save the lost – not just in Salt Lake City but also across the world.

-Reba Snyder

 

What has your heart?

sarahwogI’m sure many of you, if not all of you, have thought back to when you were a child. What mattered most to you? Even if you don’t remember when you were a child, you can certainly look at a child and see what matters most to them is what they want; their desires. Whether it is a toy, sleep, food, or comfort, it is all a child thinks about. In fact, you could call it idolatry.

Idolatry is extreme admiration, love or reverence for something or someone. Of course, a child may not realize that they are idolizing a person or something like a toy, but we as Christians know the desires holding our hearts. I make this comparison because of the many hours I have spent with children, but mostly for the extreme conviction that I have in my heart over my idols. I am like a child holding on to what I think is most dear in the world and not letting go. Whether it is friendships, relationships (my singleness and family), financial stability, future plans, physical state, spiritual state (in the eyes of others as well as my own), or my own comfort, it has my focus, my heart. Are all desires sinful? No, but when it becomes the ruling thing in our hearts, it becomes an idol. What does God think about these idols?

First, God commands us to have no other gods before Him in the first commandment. So, obviously, these are sinful, because the only person who should have my worship, praise, life, and heart is God. Secondly, not only does God command it, He reveals to us how serious idols are throughout the scriptures. I have been reading through Isaiah and specifically in chapters 14-19 he describes how God was pouring His wrath on many different cities for their idolatry. God destroyed cities for this! Thirdly, He allows us to see His love for our hearts. James 4 asks us pointed questions about our desires/idols. “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:1- 4a) Then, it describes God’s heart in verse 5, which says, “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” God is not sinful, so ultimately He is a holy jealous God who desires our whole hearts. He is not partial; He wants to claim us as a whole. A righteous, beautiful God, who loves us, desires to fellowship with us!

I have found in the past few months that God takes away idols. Sometimes it hurts. I don’t enjoy it, but it is for my ultimate good. In fact, God has my best in mind. He loves me and wants to give me the best. I think of the Prodigal Son, but the child illustration has been on my mind. I am like a child, carrying an old dirty rag for a toy, who is offered a priceless jewel from my loving Father, and I don’t want it. Eventually, God in His kindness pulls on the rag. I scream and throw a tantrum to get back what I want, but then God puts the jewel in my hand. I may toss it aside, mad, but He picks it up and hands it to me again. Graciously He changes my heart and I realize what precious object He has given me; Himself. What has your heart?

-Sarah Roe

   

Made for Life

moonwogseptAt my house above the light switch by my door there is a Post-it® note that says, “Are you living for the temporal or the eternal?” I placed it there one morning about 6 months ago with a reminiscent heart that was inspired by the signs you would see above the door in many pastor’s offices which stated, “You are now entering the mission field.” God’s word communicates that because my identity and life is found in the risen Christ alone than the natural response is to be pursuing actively and actually attaching my heart to the things that are eternal. [Colossians 3:1-4 ] My intention with the note was to create a meditation point that I would see before I left my room each day to remind me that it is very easy to live, move, find identity, and seek satisfaction in things that don’t amount to anything and that are ultimately dead or dying.

C.S. Lewis said it well “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

I am a very experiential person. Whether it’s an opportunity to spend a few days in the wilderness over 50 miles from civilization or simply a new style of food I have never tried. A private goal in my life was to take in as many experiences as I was given opportunity. But as I have tried to gain, taste, touch, and explore I have found myself constantly trying to pack into this short life things that do not last. Without trying to sound fatalistic, and without misleading you to thinking that all these things are pointless; let me share with you what I’m getting at. My problem is that I can tend to forget that there is an eternity at all. I can begin to cram all of the experiences into the here and now and live practically as though here and now is all that there is! I live life like this is the destination and if I don’t get “life” now... I never will. In the process I find myself growing more demanding and even more disappointed.

What am I doing? I am trying breath life into things that are dead and dying. Seeking identity and purpose in the passing elements of this life that are all pointing me to the fact that I was made for eternity, and a life that does not end. Death is common, and yet if feels so wrong. Death, whether small (leaves falling from dying trees) or great (the passing of a loved one), seems to be out of place. The reason is simple. It is out of place. Life was the plan, and yet death entered because of sin. The temporal nature of all things that surround us is yet another thing that points us to the fact that we were created for eternity and creates in us a longing for eternal life.

In 2 Corinthians 5 Scripture refers to the brevity of the here and now and this matching desire for eternity by saying that for the Christian we are dwelling in tents.

For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle (Tent) were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:

We are moving through this life from moment to moment in a tent because this is not our final dwelling. Innately there is a desire for eternity, and our tent groans in expectation of a day when we do arrive home. Grace is what frees us to live properly with eternity in our minds.

Paul Tripp, a Christian author, said in a book concerning eternity that “Most people think that living with eternity in view makes you a spiritual person, but living with forever in view is how God designed all human beings to live. Grace frees us from our bondage to the here and now and enables us to live in the freedom that only eternity can give.”

So what does “eternal life” mean right now? Is it only a gift of the future? Or, could it be that eternal life is a gift from God for now too? Jesus by his life, death, and resurrection purchased for us eternal life that begins now! Therefore, you and I are free from the rat race of trying to cram experience into this life, or to find identity in things that are dead or dying. We can live in peace knowing that God has already accomplished for us and given to us the identity that satisfies and lasts forever. No longer is this life a destination that must be squeezed for all its worth, but life and all of its trials becomes a preparation for a time when what is now temporal will be “further clothed” with life [2 Corinthians 5 ]

-John Moon

 

True worship

kidtoyAbout two years ago, I was exhorted by Will to read through the entire Bible, however long it took. I had done it before in college, but didn’t take the time to seriously consider the truths and get the big picture of the Bible. I started reading chronologically until I was hitting a wall in 2Kings. Will said if that was keeping me from really enjoying God, then move on to the New Testament. So here I am, about to end my reading in Zechariah and Malachi, and I totally see how it was of God that I end in the Old Testament at this stage in my sanctification.

God is seriously doing a work of weeding out the idol of self in my life. Throughout the Old Testament, I see God weeding out idols in the lives of His chosen people. God may seem harsh in the Old Testament. He is angry, He commands blood-shed, He seems unforgiving at the moment, until we read passages like Micah 7 , Ezekiel 16 , and Hosea 14 where God decides to have mercy and give grace. God desires His children to worship Him and Him alone with full joy. When we, as God’s children, choose to worship other things (putting anything before Him) and idolize them, He has full right to rip us to shreds. But He chooses to graciously show us our idols and turn us back to Him.

God is weeding out selfish idols of my future, my current relationships, my physical abilities, my finances, my hip-Christian-cultural experiences, you name it. He is doing this to show me that my focus can only be on Him and Him alone. To be a true and holy worshiper of God and a disciple maker of other people, I can’t be a worshiper of myself. When I do that, I lose all focus of my life purpose here on earth; I lose the eternal perspective of my life forever with God. I feel as if God is stripping me away from my idols like a two year old who gets her favorite toy ripped out of her hand. I even feel like throwing a temper-tantrum! But my God is not an evil jealous God; He is a righteous and lovingly jealous God who is jealous for my affections to be on Him alone.

This trial hurts, but this trial is totally gracious and worth it. I am learning more and more to be a true worshiper of my God.

-Laura Kennedy

   

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