Tag Archives: Christianity

My Testimony

I accepted Christ when I was 7 years of age on a Sunday night in Rota, Spain. I was apart of a kids program called Super Sunday Nights. On this evening we were memorizing verses and we happened to be memorizing John 3:16; “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” After getting familiar with the verse I declared to my teacher, “I want to have eternal life.” She informed me that salvation from our sins comes from Jesus Christ and when we invite him into our hearts he lives with us and helps us by his Spirit. She invited me to pray to God and to ask him to forgive me of my sins and invite Jesus into my heart. I did so as she guided me. It’s funny. I was raised in a Christian home and grew up with bible stories but this was the first time I had ever really understood anything I was hearing. At once it all made sense.

Since then I have battled through many things. I had moved seven times in my life because my parents were in the military. Each time I had to make friends and battle with loneliness and dread. I was the “perpetual new-kid.” Amongst this I sought out the wisdom of the world to confirm what I thought I chose to believe. After many books and articles I would keep searching. It wasn’t as though there weren’t good enough answers; the fact is that I was simply trying to reach God through my own human wisdom. At other times I would pray demandingly for God to come down and perform miracles. I was trying to support my faith with supernatural evidence as if that was enough to satisfy my veracious appetite for “the proof” instead of living John 20:29: ‘Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”’ Simultaneously I struggled with pornography which itself was more of a battle of trying to satisfy my physical cravings. It bled itself out and manifested its true head as a dark “me” attitude.

By the grace of God he has defeated and continues to defeat these enemies in my life. I realize now that my testimony was not so much “from here to there; black & white” but rather “from there and back again;” from innocent-child-like-faith to mature child-like-faith. The skeptic may be inclined to think that I have “regressed,” but in fact I haven’t regressed at all but “progressed.” When I was a child I had received an unimaginable gift from God but I hadn’t begun to grasp what I had received. It was when I was older and a little more foolish that I truly begun to realize just what God has done for me. Through all my doubt and poor decisions God was with me every step of the way. He continues to guide my feet and be my best friend. The truth is that the gospel is simple. In its very nature it weeds out those who would seek God by their own means. In my own life my pursuit for God was a tower of Babel that only after God had confused my efforts did he show me that the way to himself wasn’t through my own brilliance or effort but through the blood of Jesus Christ. Gently he reminded me what I was taught at first. My life now has been a constant pursuit after his Spirit and it’s been my pleasure to find him pursuing me all the same.

Maybe you’re looking for God in the evidence. Maybe you’re waiting for miracles. I would encourage you to stop. Put down the books. Quit waiting on what God could do for you and focus on what he did do for you. The fact is that what Jesus did on the cross was enough for us to praise him for eternity. On the cross he paid the debt of humanity, canceling our sins and earning us salvation, now and for eternity, ultimately reconciling us with God; when we deserved the full wrath of God he took it upon himself to pay the debt that so we may be called his friends. I plead to you on behalf of the Living God to accept his gift. Let your “knowledge” of God drip twelve inches from your head to your heart. A great quote by C. H. Spurgeon sums it up, “Defend the bible? I would as soon as defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself.” Let God’s word fulfill its truth in your life. Quit trying to white-knuckle grace like I did and instead receive it with open hands. Have faith for He will defend himself.

Jake

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Future of Forestry: Close Your Eyes

Promise once it shut you out
You ask, “What was that all about now”?
You and I through rise and fall
We’ve seen the horizon through it all now

Close your eyes this time
Cause trust is all we have tonight
But trust will be forever
Safe your dreams will be
Cause trust will be the light tonight
So close your eyes this time

The house sits stale, it lets you roam
Inside it just don’t feel like home now
I promise hope will pull you out
For that’s love is all about

Close your eyes this time
Cause trust is all we have tonight
But trust will be forever
Safe your dreams will be
Cause trust will be the light tonight
So close your eyes this time

Time will turn this place around
For the man you call Jesus was still a son like you
Sons will spendtheir days searching hard for the things they are made of

Close your eyes this time
Cause trust is all we have tonight
But trust will be forever
Safe your dreams will be
Cause trust will be the light tonight
So close your eyes this time

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Wanting to Hear and See God

I don’t know about you but I really want to hear from God. Nothing makes sense in my life. Lately, I’ve felt this draw to get nearer to God and to become more intimate with Him. Like my entire being is craving His presence. 

The other day I had some things happen to me that have made me very upset. When I heard the news I spent much of the night praying and crying. The entire time I was yearning for God’s presence. I can’t really explain it. I just want my prayer times to be intimate with God. I just want to speak to Him like a friend talks to another friend.

In all honesty I don’t feel much happier than when I heard the news but I’ve been able to use the time to draw near in prayer. Sometimes when I run out of words I raise my hand to reach up to God hoping that he’ll grab my hand.

Sometimes its important to remember that when it seems like nothing is going right in your life that your alive and awake. Your alive in the sense that God has given you another day to draw closer to Him and your awake in the sense that this pain has awoken you from your sleep.

I don’t know what is going to happen in the days to come but I want to use this opportunity to become a prayer warrior. The other day I heard this quote from a pastor at the United Pastors Network conference:

“Prayer isn’t used to support your ministry; it is your ministry.”

I have seen God do amazing things through prayer in other people’s lives and I want to see that happen in my life. I don’t want you to get the feeling that I’ve never prayed because I pray all the time. I’m just trying to come to grips with how much work I need to in this area. Its easy to pursue God like a checklist. “Okay, I got this done today now I don’t need to do it again until tomorrow.” But God wants us to draw near to Him intimately. I don’t know what God means by the word intimate but I’m excited to find out. When we read about people in the bible who did great things we often find the phrase, “the Lord was with him.”

Our power to live out the gospel comes from our proximity to God’s presence. Prayer is that access to God’s presence. If we could only realize what prayer actually is then our lives would turn upside down.

“In a sense prayer is requesting an audience with the maker of the universe.”

Just think about that for a second. Doesn’t that make you want to pray? Yesterday I turned 22 and its my goal that if I do one thing differently this year it would be to pray; more often, more passionately and more intimately.

Jake

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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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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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