Friday, July 31, 2009

Joy in Every Circumstance

God has delivered us from going down to the pit, & we shall live to enjoy the light of life. - Job 33:28

Are we really enjoying life? How often do we get so caught up in the problems of the world that we forget about what's really important? I'm just as guilty as anyone else. We get stressed with schoolwork, or an important election, or problems with friends, & we completely forget that in the long run, none of it matters. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say that we should slack off on our schoolwork or not put effort into our relationships. Those things are important. But the thing that matters most is bringing God glory, & when we get so caught up in earthly problems, we tend to forget that.

Romans 8:18 says that "our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." No matter how bad things get, it can't even compare to the glory of Heaven & the eternity we'll spend there.

Instead of getting so caught up in earthly problems, we should be thankful for the good times, & trust God to get us through the tough times. God is in control of every situation, & I think we often forget about that. We don't give Him enough credit. Isaiah 25:9 says, "In that day they will say, 'Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, & He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice & be glad in His salvation.'" We need to trust Him in every circumstance, good or bad.

God has really been teaching me lately about being joyful. I take so much for granted, & I get so stressed when things don't go the way I planned. It's ridiculous how caught up I get in things that don't really matter. My goal right now is to be joyful in every situation, & really live to enjoy the light of life that is mentioned in Job 33:28. If Job can be joyful & move on after all of the horrible things he went through, I can make it through the struggles of my life, & I can be joyful & bring God glory throughout all of it. I challenge you guys to focus on enjoying life... God didn't put us on this earth to be miserable, so have fun, live it up, find the things God gave you a passion for, & find ways to serve in those areas.

Please let me know how you guys are doing, & if there's any way I can be praying for you!

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! - Philippians 4:4

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Salvation, Sin, & Struggle

I thought of this the other day for some reason... It isn't based on Scripture, just an opinion. At Super Summer, someone was talking about how people think the "good testimonies" are the ones where people are caught up in drugs or crime or whatever, doing all this awful stuff, & then they feel God pull on their heart, & they turn away from that stuff to go to Him. But the person who was speaking said they liked testimonies where the person grew up in a Christian home, went to church their whole life, & still realized they needed God. I had never thought about it like that before. It kind of makes sense. When things are going so wrong in your life, clearly something is missing, so hopefully you realize that "something" is Jesus. But when you're raised in a Christian family & grow up in the church, you sometimes fall into this trap that you're already a good person & don't need to change anything.

I've heard so many testimonies of people who said, "I was saved when I was really young, but I re-dedicated later in life because I didn't really fully understand the decision I was making." Mac Powell from Third Day was speaking at a concert I went to once, & he told a story that I haven't forgotten. He told us his daughter received Christ at a very young age, & he was excited for her, but worried at the same time. He prayed & said "God, I'm glad she's making this decision, but I don't think she fully understands what You did for her." & God said "I don't think YOU fully understand what I did for you." How can we ever fully understand the awful things He went through, watching His Son die on the cross? & how can we understand what Jesus did on the cross? The pain & agony inflicted on Him because He loves us enough to die for us, even though we're sinful beings, & He's done nothing wrong... It's crazy to me. We can never fully grasp it.

I used to wonder why God called so many Christians to Him at such a young age. I think it's because when we're that young, we're still trying to figure things out. We're willing to listen & are more open to the idea that there's this amazing God who cares so deeply for us, & we need Him to get through life. We realize we've made mistakes & need to turn from them. When we get older, we start comparing ourselves to people we see around us. We think that since we don't drink, or cuss, or steal, or whatever, we're doing better than that other guy, so we're okay. But God doesn't judge us based on others, or as Francis Chan put it, "God doesn't grade on a curve." We are judged for EVERY mistake we make.

My challenge this summer has been finding all my "little sins" & getting rid of them. Our Falls Creek speaker, Scott Dawson, told a story that illustrates the concept really well. If God is a stream of water running through our life, & pebbles represent our sins, then throwing one pebble into the stream isn't going to make a huge difference. The water will still get past the pebble. But if we continue throwing in pebbles, eventually it's going to build a wall that blocks the water from getting to the other side. Our "little sins" may not seem like a big deal, but they build up. This summer, for me, has been about getting rid of the "little sins." I deleted music that cussed or talked about things that didn't glorify God. This doesn't mean I'm only listening to Christian music, just that I'm only listening to clean music. I also decided that some shows & movies weren't worth watching anymore, & some of my habitual "little sins" have come to my attention that I had never thought about before, like speeding. How many of us speed constantly? But God commands us in Hebrews 13:17 to respect our authority, which means respecting the laws they put in place. Maybe that's strange, but I had never thought of that as a sin before.

Getting rid of the "little sins" has been hard, but it has already made a big difference in my life. It's definitely worth the struggle.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Falls Creek 09

One generation will commend Your works to another; they will tell of Your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of Your majesty -- & I will meditate on Your wonderful works. - Psalm 145:4-5

We had 63 campers go to Falls Creek with our church, & 36 of those made decisions for Christ, plus one sponsor. I think like 9 of those were first time salvations, 3 were calls to missions/ministry, & the rest were rededications. It was amazing!

I also got to be on the Decision Team this week, so I was able to counsel with some students who went forward during the invitation to make a decision. It was such a great experience... It's so awesome to be able to be there when someone makes such a big change in their life.

If you get the chance to go to Falls Creek this summer, I also suggest getting involved in all of the missions stuff there, if you're interested in that. They have a lot of new stuff going on at the Missions Center this year, so visit during rec. & go on the big missions experience thing they have one night after tabernacle...It was sooo cool.

I had a great time this week. I was able to get closer to a lot of the people in my youth group, & I learned soooo much this week. Here are some things that really stuck out:

1. Our job is NOT to understand & explain everything about Jesus, because we can't understand it all. Our job is to trust & follow Him.

2. If you go on an icee date with someone dressed in a Winnie-the-Pooh costume, you WILL end up taking pictures of them with tons of random people. I promise.

3. God knows you. Scripture is Him revealing Himself to you so that You can know Him.

4. Joshua 1:8 says, "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day & night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous & successful." Scripture tells us to do EVERYTHING written in the Bible, not just the easy parts.

5. Lip Syncing contests are entertaining... especially when someone decides to serenade you & 3 of your friends in front of the entire cabin :)

6. The Bible should not just be a book in our house. It should be a book in our lives & relationships. We need to apply Scripture to our friendships. This week they challenged us to start an "Echo group," which is an accountability group of 3-5 people. Maegan, Britni, Whitney, & I started one this week, & we have already gotten so much closer just by discussing our relationships with God & what He is doing in our lives. Don't be a "lone ranger" Christian... Find someone who will ask you the tough questions about your relationship with God, & do the same for them.

7. We make talking about God a big intimidating topic, but it shouldn't be. We talk to our friends, family, even strangers about everything... Sports, school, celebrities, the weather, all sorts of random stuff... Why can't we bring up the topic that should be the most important thing in our lives?

8. The Alpine Tower isn't as hard as I thought it would be (I did the easy side though). & I learned how to belay. :)

9. God doesn't always give us what we want, but He gives us what He wants us to have. He gives us a peace that PASSES UNDERSTANDING, because if we understood everything He has planned for us & how He is working things out for our good (Romans 8:28), it would scare us to death. We can't handle all of God's wisdom & power.

10. Just above a thunderstorm, the sun is still shining. Even at night, the sun is still shining. We can't always see it, but it's there. So no matter how dark life seems, remember that the Son is still there, even when you don't see/feel Him.

11. You may think you're the only one who still knows pretty much every word to all of the Silly Songs with Larry... but you're not. You'd be surprised how many people can sing along.

12. We shouldn't focus on how we want God to move in our lives. We should focus on looking for ways God is already moving, & find ways to help His plan.

13. Don't forget the power of God! He is mericful, powerful, & wonderful. How does the gospel get boring to us? We should not be comfortable with His glory... We should be amazed by it. We take so much for granted. I could be arrested or killed in some places for posting this note, but here, I have the freedom to do that. Why don't we take advantage of that freedom? Share the glory of God with the people who need to hear about it.

14. You are NOT the wrong person. Everyone thinks they're the wrong person, but God uses "wrong people" to further His kingdom every day, as long as they say yes & follow Him.

15. There are tarantulas in Oklahoma. & they are LARGE.

16. Jeremiah 6:16 says to "ask where the good way is, & walk in it, & you will find rest for your souls." Live like the Creator intended for us to live...That's the only way to truly live life to the fullest & be at peace with God.

17. Nothing matters in this world unless it has to do with loving God & His people. Share His love in EVERYTHING you do. It can be scary to fully live for Jesus because we are afraid of rejection, but if we plant a seed that can end up leading someone to Christ later in life, that's all that matters. If one more person is in Heaven, partially because of something we did, it's worth it. & no one is a lost cause. No matter how long you pray for a lost friend, don't give up on them.

18. Pour your WHOLE heart out EVERY time you talk to God. He can handle honesty... He WANTS honesty.

19. You really never know who is watching you. We had sacks for people to put encouraging notes in throughout the week, & I got notes from people I never expected. Just remember that someone could be following your example. We are supposed to be making an echo with our lives that reflects God & goes on from generation to generation. Give someone a good example to follow.

20. On the last day, they challenged us to just stop. Take a look at your life. Where is it headed? What do you need to change? Don't think "little sins" don't matter... They add up & keep you away from God. My Echo group decided to do a kind of life spring cleaning. My personal change is just getting rid of negative influences in my life... getting rid of music/movies/tv shows that aren't pleasing to God, not hanging out with people who are bringing me down, & focusing on putting God first. I've been home for 2 days & it's already making a difference. I really suggest taking a look at your life & deciding what you need to change. :)

I had a really great week, & I'm so stoked to be heading to Super Summer next week. God is moving in an awesome way this summer, so be ready for it!