The Proverbial Fork in the Road

For the first time in a while I don’t know what to do with my summer. Do I use it to improve my career opportunities by taking an internship? Do I get a full-time job? Or do I savor my free time and use it to serve and take care of my family? Do I get a part-time job at the mall and work my summer away. Honestly I’m not sure.

But who am I kidding? Does it matter? What are the implications? I’ll I’m sure of is that I don’t want to let this summer waste away. Its easy to know what to do when life is black and white. Sometimes I wish it was but what about the grey-ness of it all? Who will shed light upon my circumstances?

That’s when I turn to God. My friendship with God is what makes me different from everyone else my age. He’s like a wise sensei who always drips with wisdom. Even more when he’s not saying anything. Even though I don’t know what to do now I know that he will illuminate my situation and give me wisdom.

Jake

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Ministry is like Giving Birth; If your not Ready, Keep it in your Pants

Note: I apologize for the following content. Its not my place to convict, I simply yearn to share whats been on my heart.

How many of us have yearned to see the next “great” revival? To see hundreds, thousands and even millions come to know Christ? How many times have we cried hoping that our generation would change its ways and honor the Lord? Often we dream these things but how often do we count the cost of making it happen? Are we ready to sacrifice our end of the bargain?

I, luckily, have never had the privilege of giving birth, but from want I hear, the process isn’t at all painless or quick. It’s an incredibly long journey that is only rewarded after months of pain, emotion and struggle. Our ministries are very similar. Realize that we are responsible for bringing new spiritual life into being but it’s going to cost us something in return. When we read Revelations where Christ is criticizing the churches I found a particular quote that hits my heart hard:

Revelations 3:14-22

To the church of Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Many of us look at successful pastors, worship leaders, mentors and think, “I really wish I could have what they have. You know what? I could really see myself doing what they do.” Then we proceed to get involved and before long we start seeing some sort of fruit from our ministry. Then the inevitable happens. Life happens. Soon our ministry becomes crowded out by relationships, work, education, family obligations, etc. Before long our ministry dwindles down to an effectiveness of nothing.

When we say that we want those things that the godly people we admire do, do we really count the cost? When the disciples James and John said that they wanted to sit on either side of Jesus, did they really know from what cup they were going to drink? Lately I’ve found an upsetting trend in churches among the college age group. Many of them are eager and excited to jump into ministry but soon the “weeds of life” crowd out their opportunities and they end up either getting sucked up into laissez-faire Christianity, or turning back but not after twenty years of their life have gone by. Of course this isn’t always the case but it is starting to become a real pet peeve of mine and one that I’m especially warring with in my own personal life.

Too often our carnal desires get the best of us and steal us away from God’s destiny for our life. Suddenly, in a moment we find our godly selves at war with our animal selves. Are we going to subdue our flesh and choose what is godly or yield to the flesh and reduce ourselves to animals? In the story of Gideon we see a perfect example. When Israel was under attack, God choose Gideon to lead the Israelites to victory. Before God could do this he had to make sure that they would know that He accomplished it. To do this he removed the majority of men from the military service. Now there is an important detail that the bible tells us. Notice how the men were chosen:

Judges 7:2-8

The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lestIsraelboast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away fromMountGilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.

And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.

Notice that the three hundred men who God chose took water to their mouth and lapped it up, while the majority knelt down to drink the water. I get two different images from this. One is of a bold warrior using his hands to hold the water and bring it to his face. The other is of an antelope kneeling down to the water to get a drink. In other words I get the image of a small band of warriors who were wholly committed to retaining there godliness and a large amount who acted more like animals. What about the lapping of dogs comment? Certainly using your hands and lapping like a dog is more “human” then kneeling over the water!

What I’m trying to point at is that our earthly desires often try to put themselves where God should be reserved. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have earthly or “animal” desires to do things but that we should put them in their proper places.

Matthew 6:33

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Jesus says this after immediately talking about concerns as far as food, clothing, worries, etc. As Christians we are all asked to take part in “ministry,” whether it’s your work place, your school, your church, your family, etc. Let’s realize that this is for the long haul and that we should never give up when it feels tough or when it seems like there are be other things we want to be doing. Jesus has given us his kingdom and as good subjects we should seek to uphold and maintain it. Let’s stop worrying about who we should marry, where we should work or what to major in. If we make God’s kingdom a priority we have to trust that he’ll make a way. I’ll make it my prayer that we do not become “lukewarm” in our obligations to God but that we will become over comers! That we will refresh God’s people with something new being brought into the world.

We want a revival, so lets start counting the costs.

Jake,

Thoughts and proofreading added by Chris from http://thevagabondcartographer.wordpress.com/

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Jesus vs. Religion

“Religion is an attempt to externally conform your behavior to some code of conduct, set of rules or the practice of rituals. Religion attempts to make you clean from the outside in. A relationship with God changes you from the inside out.” – Pastor Dale O’Shields.

Its important to realize that Jesus didn’t make very many “religious” friends. They often to came to Him with loaded questions regarding the law in order to ensnare him but they never succeeded. These people had taken what was holy and worshiped the law rather than the creator of the law. If they truly knew the creator they would’ve recognized Jesus for who he was.

Keeping these thoughts in our mind we have to ask ourselves, what does it mean to be a Christian? A person who claims to be a Christian is in a unique place then any other. Having a relationship with God first and foremost they bypass all the legalism of religion. Religion doesn’t clean us but shows us how dirty we are.

If that is so, what is a relationship with God? A relationship with God is something that changes us at the heart level. When we “come in contact” with God we begin to think, act, and behave differently. We find ourselves desiring things we never once did or could. We begin to seek in Him in all we do and we thirst night and day for his presence in our lives. Not only that but we communicate with Him almost as much as we think; making every thought a prayer.

So how do you know your a Christian? If your faith is in Jesus Christ, who died and rose again. If your life has changed as a result and his Spirit lives in you, teaching, convicting, and empowering you to live as God has chosen.

Please realize that if God truly lives and exists, as he does, then anything we do for Him is not out of religion but out of truth. Every other religion attempts to “get” to the “gods,” but ours was the first and only one to come down to us. Christianity has two faces; the religion and the relationship with God. Please don’t think they are the same thing because the difference between the two makes all the importance in the world. Exhaust yourselves looking for Christ and he will come to you, but don’t get caught up in “religion,” because Christ didn’t come to establish the “Christian” religion, he came to make a way for me and you to connect personally with God himself.

Jake

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Before the Passage of Light

Worn, weary. I had finally reached my destination. Before me stood a dominion a light. I could faintly hear what sounded like music. The music that leads us home. I attempt to move my swollen legs only to fall to my knees. I drop my bloody sword beside me.

The distant echo of melodies draws upon my soul but my marred and wounded flesh refuses. I collapse upon my shield. I try to brace myself with one arm as I pant heavily. Perspiration runs down my brow as I contemplate trying to move further.

I crawl. At this point my legs will give no further. Crawling on my arms I try to expand my body. My strength starts to wane. I couldn’t bear to move any further.

I’ve collapsed into a heap. For a moment I lay there. The moment felt like an eternity.

The music grew.

Knowing that if I would attempt to rest I would never wake up I decided to force my consciousness to continue. If your were to ask me what the light seemed like, I would tell you its like nothing we’ve seen back home. It was warm. Radiant. A hum emanated from its glow. Like it was singing among the voices I so faintly could ascertain. I lay there breathless. Motionless. Waiting for the inevitable-or whatever one could expect-before such a magnificent entrance.

In my weakness my spirit slipping from my grasp. My presence was beginning to withdraw.

In that moment I saw a shadow momentarily intercept the light. The figure stood tall. Like a king of old. He reached down and embraced me. I could faintly make out scares upon his entire being. His wounds matched my own. His wounds surpassed my own.

He sat my frail corpse up. Without saying anything he kissed my brow and his arms enveloped me. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. He took his hand and wiped them from my eyes. I knew who this was although I’ve never seen him. He strung one arm across my shoulder and the other beneath my legs and carried me into the beyond.

Jake

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Putting the Flesh to the Test

Recently I read over an insightful blog about running: Running every day keeps aging away: the most complete list of running benefits. After reading this I realized that living our lives in such a way that we exhibit self-control has more then just spiritual implications. It seems that our flesh benefits increasingly as the Spirit leads. I consolidated some of what I thought were the major points of the article.

Running Benefits include:

-Growth of brain cells

-Increased mental sharpness

-Ease symptoms of anxiety and depression

-Prevents osteoporosis, or bone and muscle loss

-Improves cardio

-Helps fight the early stages of dangerous diseases such as diabetes, breast cancer and hypertension

-Releases endorphins, or “runners high”

-Weight loss

-Anti-aging benefits

-Doesn’t kill your joints

-Inner sense of confidence

-Coordination

-Muscle tone

-Improved sex life

After thinking about this I realized just how important it is for us to become disciplined. Paul puts it this way:

 1 Timothy 4:8-10

“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.

One thing I particularly admire about runners is how much they hate it. Very rarely will I find someone who truly deep down enjoys torturing their body. Each and every day disciplined runners wake up to put their flesh behind them. They have to overcome aches, pains and apathy every single day. How many of us would receive spiritual blessings by overcoming the flesh everyday? I’m not saying everyone should become a runner. I’m simply saying that each of us as we pursue godliness should incur the blessings of activities that exhibit self-control, patience and joy. For some this maybe eating healthy, others this may be watching less television or going for a walk. I don’t want anyone to become to discouraged. Even if an activity seems daunting realize that you who believe have the Spirit of Christ living in you who empowers you to start new habits, get rid of old ones and pursue after Him in all aspects of your lives.

Ephesians 1:3-6

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Jake

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“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Living with grace can be a difficult thing. I find in some modern churches a setiment of going “old testament” on the lost. How often we forget that Jesus, “had compassion” on them. In our zeal for holiness we have neglected that which is holy.

Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

This is a crucial. Sometimes we take convicting into our own hands. How soon we forget that convinction one of the duties of the Holy Spirit. As an example I have found people around me cursing up a storm who suddenly apologize to me for their salty language, as if I was hugely offended. Honestly I never told them to stop cussing around me. Was it me that they were apologizing to? Was it anything in me that they were convicting by? No. It was the Spirit of God that they suddenly found themselves convicted to. Since I was young I’ve pleaded to God for him to keep me from cursing and by his Spirit He has made this possible. Honestly, I can’t own this achievement because I know my nature and I know how often I’ve wanted to say something curse worthy but was prevented somehow.

Lets think about this: Which person has obeyed the commandments? A preacher who takes every moment to slam homosexuals? Or a person who shows love to people who don’t agree with them, or even hate them?

As Jesus was on the cross he uttered the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We know not what we do. We need God’s strength to live the lives he wants us to. We can’t turn a blind eye to sin but we can turn our eyes towards compassion. They will know we are Christians by our love.

Jake

As a final note we need to read the old testament again. As harsh as somethings can be, there are many, many more places where God shows his mercy.

Micah 7:18 “Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love.”

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The Beard is Back

If you’ve watched any movies lately or looked around you’ll notice that beards seem to be making a come back. What is it about this hairy beasts that attracts us to them? What do they represent?

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of getting a new haircut. Over the winter my hair had grown pretty long so I wanted to cut it short for the sizzling summer months. I had a guy cutting my hair who spoke with what sounded to me like broken English but I couldn’t tell due to his utterings and mumblings. At one point he held the “zizzer” up to my side burns and looked towards me and murmured something. I couldn’t hear him with the noisy hair cutter in my ear. I nodded my head thinking, “That seems like a good length.” Because obviously he was suggesting my side burn length.

Then he did the unthinkable. He flipped his little machine upside down and shaved off a good part of my beard leaving me with only a lopsided goatee. Needless to say the haircut was great.

After that experience I realized just how valuable  a beard is to a man. I did a brief Wikipedia search (I know its Wikipedia…) to investigate this further. It seems that in some cultures beards are mandatory and to others an object of holiness. After my vicious experience I too felt this. With out my beard I feel like a little boy, like my manhood was sucked out of me. What good is a male lion without his mane?

Among my Wikipedia perusing I realized that many great people had beards. I mean:

Kings, philosophers, scientists, inventors, presidents, warriors, athletes, emperors, wizards (who doesn’t want to be Gandalf), writers, thinkers, wise men, old people, etc. If you have a beard then your in good company.

Jesus himself was described as having a beard. So what is it about beards that we love so much? Why do women (not girls) find them attractive? To grow a clean beard it shows security, patience, discipline and humility. If you’ve ever had facial hair you know the “itchy” stage. You also know that you have to remain committed even if at first it doesn’t look right. At some point you have to give up on being insecure and just accept people’s compliments.

Now I’m not saying that all men should have a beard. Some men can’t grow them. Others have jobs that prohibit them. But we as men should all have spiritual beards. Beards of character. Beards of hard work. Beards of wisdom, humility and thoughtfulness.

Its freeing to think that maybe we weren’t meant to look clean shaven. Maybe our beards are a gift of God’s mercy.

Jake

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Fall On Deaf Ears

My dear God…

Do you ever wonder what God must be thinking right now? If you’ve ever had this thought you’ll immediately find yourself praying. Its a humbling thought to think that out there exists a being of such raw beauty, power, glory if even those words did enough justice, who keeps himself quite before us and listens.

As a kid I remember asking my dad how cars worked. What do batteries do? Why do certain animals look certain ways? To think that God wants us to approach him like a child like that. Why do certain things happen? Who should I marry? What do you think of her? When you start talking to God again its like your childhood comes back to you. Like an intimate secret at last is revealed. Like an ancient mystery has been revealed just for you. Like the universe has bent itself over for your voice. Like restoration.

I find it amazing that animals enjoy the voice of a human and that plants grow better when talked to. God certainly placed us in the garden for a reason. In the same way we know that we were created for Him because our life is dependent on his very words.

Please hear his voice. A deep voice in your spirit, not your mind. Don’t miss His message. He’s calling out to you.

Jake

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I “Hate” Blogging

Hello, my name is Jake and I’m relatively new to blogging. I’ve tried several times to create a fresh and innovative blog but I keep finding myself get in these ruts and I lose momentum. This time however I’m starting with a new iniative to be a better blogger. I don’t have any methods on how this will happen but I will commit to share with you the insights I find along the way. I will also be open and honest with the frustrations I face and bring some light into the darker more painful side of the blogging experience.

I know that there are alot of people out there who want to be better bloggers but don’t know where to start. Hopefully during this quest I’ll learn a few things that I can share with you guys.

I also make this promise to write meaningfully. I want to have a blog where people can understand what I have to say, feel comfortable to agree or argue if they wish, and ultimately walk away with something they can apply for their lives. I hope you find what I have to say insightful. I would also like to say that its my hope to one be able to become a professional blogger. I state this now because I want you all to know that what I have to say is genuine and heartful regardless if I ever earn and income with it.

That being said I hope to be an encouragement to you and I look forward to growing with this community.

Your fellow blogganaut,

Jake

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pennytuesday:

7 Miles Matt Chandler Sermon Jam (by Takeupyourcross1)

SEVEN MILES.

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