This Will Change Your Life in 2016

Everyone is busy arguing about New Year’s resolutions – whether you should set goals or whether goals are not the answer and other things are more important.

I’m not going to tell you whether you should set New Year’s resolutions or not. But I do want to tell you about one thing you can do in 2016 that will invite God to work incredible changes in your life.

Over the summer, I had the privilege to meet and talk with an inspirational man of God – Cliff Barrows. Just in case you don’t know who Cliff Barrows is, let me fill you in.

Cliff Barrows met Billy Graham in 1945, and he and George Beverly Shea were music program directors for the crusade ministry. Their team did 417 crusades in all 50 states and 185 countries over 58 years. They shared the Gospel with 215 million people in live audiences. Mr. Barrows has also announced “The Hour of Decision,” a Billy Graham radio program that airs every week, for the last 65 years. He is 93 years old.

When I met Mr. Barrows, the Spirit of God just seemed to ooze out of him. Everything he said was filled with such wisdom, scripture, and poetry. I got to spend almost an hour and a half across the table from him, just listening. He told me that the key to life is hiding God’s Word in your heart.

“My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.” Proverbs 4:20-22

Mr. Barrows cannot see well anymore, now that he is in his 90s. He looked at his wife Ann as he told me that it is one of his greatest sorrows that he can no longer read the Word of God himself. Instead, he listens to endless audiobooks of the Bible, and Ann reads scripture to him for hours each day.

Seeing the love Mr. Barrows has for the Word of God inspired me. I decided sitting there with him that I wanted to start hiding God’s words in my heart with more intentionality. Mr. Barrows suggested the Navigator’s Topical Memory System. 

Here is the link: http://bit.ly/1LQKVZ7

The Navigator’s system comes with nifty little flash cards and memory tips that can help you memorize. However, being a college student, I didn’t want to spend $15 on some cards, so I pasted the list of verses and topics it includes into a note on my phone for easy access.

Each time I start a new verse, I type it into another note in my phone and try to reference that note as often as possible until I have it memorized. I am going pretty slowly. I’m about six months in and have only 18 verses memorized.

But since I have started intentionally memorizing God’s word, I have seen my life change. When I am working on a verse, I see my sensitivity to God’s spirit skyrocket. The Holy Spirit brings God’s words to mind right when I need them in my daily life.

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8

Don’t fall into the trap of memorizing verses to memorize verses. There is no benefit in that, and your motivation will soon wear thin. Memorize verses with the intention of learning, chewing, understanding, and applying what God says.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Memorize verses because you are in love with their writer and want to get to know Him. Memorize verses because they have meaning that is applicable to every moment of your life. Memorize verses because you want to see God work in your life.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11

The memorization process is different for everyone, there are even several apps you might find helpful, but remember to keep it simple. God will use it to change your life.

2016

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So Death Might Live & Life Might Die

Only 5 days left till Christmas!

As we continue to prepare to celebrate the birth of God, we can glean great wisdom from those who have celebrated Jesus’ coming for thousands of years before us.

Approximately 1600 years ago, St. Augustine said:

“Man’s maker was made man,
that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger,
the Fountain thirst,
the Light sleep,
the Way be tired on its journey;
that the Truth might be accused of false witness,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.

“He was made man to suffer these and similar undeserved things for us, that He might free us who were undeserving.” – Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 191.1)

The Ruler of the Stars, the Bread of Life, the Fountain of Living Water, the Light of the World, the Way, the Truth, the Teacher, the Foundation, the Strength, the Healer, and the Life – Jesus. 

Jesus, the Life, came to die so we who were already dead might live. Imagine the love required for the Savior, who could have freed Himself at any time, to die so that we could live. That puts Christmas in a new light!

We all deserved death, but Life died so we could live. 

Merry Christmas!!!

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I’m Becoming a God-Adrenaline Junkie

This summer I experienced roller coasters for the first time. I may have started out a bit energetically with the Fury – the tallest giga coaster in the world. My friends and I rode it four times in a row…

At first, I thought I was crazy to trust my life to a flying hunk of lime-green metal with waist straps. I glanced at the exit stairs. But I was already locked in.

The train started rolling up the 325 foot climb. Sitting near the back of the train, we had to watch each car in front drop off the edge before we did. I questioned my sanity as the car directly in front of us pitched down.

My lips and eyelids plastered back against my face. My head weighed 100 pounds as we careened upward again. I’m pretty sure some saliva went flying as we twisted through a loop. For a second, it looked like we would smash into the ground, but instead we swooped underground before coming out of a tunnel on the other side of a sidewalk.

Before I could catch my breath from the first drop, the train was sliding back into the loading dock. I couldn’t speak, but for some crazy reason all I wanted to do was go again.

That day at Carowinds is one of my favorite memories from the summer, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I realized my newfound love for roller coasters is just like my love for God.

Well, maybe not just like ;). But think about it. God is the roller coaster car. He takes us through the tracks of life. We can try to go slowly on our own, climbing up the coaster rung by rung without Him, but it’s a lot better to trust Him and ride in the car.

As we go, we will get a little bent out of shape, we will feel incapable of continuing, we will lose some things, and we might think we can’t survive, but God’s got us the whole time.

When we realize that God has us, faith sets us free to have a blast. Even though we’re scared of the 325 foot drop, nothing can touch us because our harnesses are secured up in heaven.

We get to throw our hands up and fly through the God-adrenaline rush! Every time we obey and step out in faith, even though we’re scared, we get to feel God catch us with His harnesses.

When I know I am following God’s will, and He is taking care of me, there is nothing like the rush from telling a stranger what God has done in my life, or flying across the world for a mission trip, or helping a friend even when I’m short on time.

So that’s why I’m becoming a God-adrenaline junkie. Life with God is a roller coaster, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Psalm 16:5-11

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The Prayer That is Changing My Life

On my birthday this year, I spent some time praying and asking God what He had for me in my next year of life. In that time, He gave me a prayer I have been praying ever since. God is changing my life as I pray this prayer. The words are ever-changing, but the core meaning has always been simple.

I have been praying that God would allow me to see Him. That my heart would be opened to His work in my life and in the world around me. That my spiritual eyes would be awake and aware of the wonder of God. That I would realize the Holy Spirit upon my life. That I would be blessed to be a witness of God’s work.

As I have prayed this prayer, God has changed my world. I have seen Him in ways I never imagined. He brought together an incredible group of girls to be roommates at Colorado Christian University. He guided my summer to the Billy Graham Library. He gifted me with mentors and friends I never would have dreamed of. He moved hundreds of people to faith in Jesus. He healed a suffering friend right before my eyes. He made a way for me to get to school in the wake of car problems.

God has been doing enormous things, but sometimes the tiny things are even more earth-shattering. Like the fact that He would save a close parking spot for me when I am bringing back groceries. Or that He would put my current favorite scripture right outside the door of my apartment. Or that He would guide the message of His assurance and faithfulness to be the topic at church today. And the crazy thing is, He’s not stopping! I get to keep seeing Him. I get to keep experiencing His work in the adventure of life and death forever.

“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”  Romans 8:6

Nothing I can say about the wonder of God is enough. I cannot contain Him with my words. You cannot understand simply by reading my words. You must experience the hand of God. Bring your life before Him. Give Him your all. Ask Him to let you see Him. You will find, when you give yourself to Him and He shows Himself to you, your eyes aren’t just opened – you get to join in the work! You get to be a part! You get the privilege of being used by God.

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.”  Romans 11:33, 36

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The Only Translation?

You may be the only translation of the Bible someone ever reads. Christians are the Body of Christ in the world, we are a translation of the Good News, but is our translation beautiful and true, or sloppy and misleading? The testimony of our lives is the first thing the people around us see.

Paul put it this way, “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

It is more effective to share the Good News with our lives than with our words. Without first seeing a life that speaks the Gospel, people will not have open ears to hear words of hope and life. We must live the Gospel.

Peter tells us how this works: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:3-9

Did you notice what Peter did there? He started with the righteousness we have been granted by God. We must always start there. We can never live lives that speak the Gospel on our own. We make a mess of things, but through God’s divine power, He has granted us everything we need for life and godliness. Once we know this, we can live the Gospel through God’s power instead of our own. That is the only way we will succeed.

The blood of Jesus gives us righteousness by faith and Christ lives in us to let others see the Gospel. “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.” Galatians 2:20

So go out into the world. Be a true translation of the Bible. Overcome and be fruitful in God’s power and Christ’s life.

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Fly Free

I often wonder how any human being can make it through life without God. Life for the unbeliever is meaningless and full of questions without answers. If there is no God, then life is just some kind of freak game where the most successful and happiest people win. We each live and die in the span of purposeless moments.

Except we don’t.

We feel our lives are supposed to mean something because they do. God has a purpose for each of us. God loves us unconditionally. God cares for us perfectly. We are created in the imago Dei.

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Many of us would agree this is true, but do we live and think as if it is?

Charles Spurgeon once declared, “Oh people of God, be great believers! Little faith will bring your souls to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your souls.” We can languish to the end of life and enter heaven on the faith that Jesus saves us, but why would we want to languish? Why would we not want to flourish?

Flourishing in life comes from faith that because Jesus saves us from our sins, He also saves us from the everyday. We must believe God really does love us more than we could ever imagine and He really does work things together for our good.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

This doesn’t mean we will have perfect lives from a materialistic point of view – it means even through suffering we know God’s love never fails. We believe and trust He will make beautiful things out of the dust.

Let’s remember today how blessed we are to have been given the love of Jesus. We can fly free from worry, despair, inadequacy, hurt, weakness, and pain. We can fly today! We don’t have to wait for heaven because we have already been given perfect love! 

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18

But let’s not grasp this incredible gift so tightly that we don’t share it with others. Let’s give the lost what we have been given. Let’s share the love of God with the people in our lives.

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People Live Their Lives

People live their lives,
People live and try to love,
People live, but aren’t alive,
People live their lives.

People live forever to heave,
People live giving all to strive,
People live never to achieve,
People live their lives.

People live needing to survive,
People live surviving to revive,
People live reviving to thrive,
People live their lives.

People live, their hearts unstaved.
People live, their spirits enslaved.
People live, their souls unsaved.
People live their lives.

People die unknowingly depraved.
People die and can’t believe.
People die, though He gave.
People live their lives.

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