Monday, May 25, 2015

The Right Kind of Faith

I sat on the hotel bed at 11:30 at night, considering the past few days.  I had just debated seven rounds, given speeches in three rounds.  Overall, I had given 20+ speeches and spoken for more than 150 minutes (that’s two and a half hours).  Now, as I looked over the past few days, I resolved to do better in the next speech and debate tournament.  I sat there on my bed and prayed, “Lord Jesus, I’m going to have faith that you will take my partner and I to finals this next tournament.”  You see, I had been learning about faith, and now I decided to test out an hypothesis.  I wondered that if I had enough faith, if we would indeed make it to finals.

Surely God would grant us this request if we simply believed.  After all, it didn’t contradict any Scripture.  It didn’t expressly go against the Word of God.  On the contrary, there were actually verses to support my position:
“Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” ~Psalms 37:4

I continued along with this perspective for the next couple of weeks.  My partner and I agreed that we would go to finals.  That was our game set, and I believed it was God’s as well.

However, something just didn’t seem right.  Around 10:30 PM (Just so you know, since I am most certainly not a night person, it has to be a special occasion for me to stay up past 10:00) Monday night, after our speech and debate class, I sat down with pen and paper, and my trusty Bible.  I asked the Lord to reveal how He wanted me to approach this next debate tournament.  For some reason that night, I brought along the Message commentary of the Bible.  It opened to Psalm 113:1-3, which says,

You who serve God, praise God!
    Just to speak his name is praise!
Just to remember God is a blessing—
    now and tomorrow and always.
From east to west, from dawn to dusk,
    keep lifting all your praises to God!”

From that verse, the Holy Spirit reminded me how the Lord is my satisfaction and my reward.  He is the most precious One.

Then the Lord pressed on my heart the verses that say we are to lay up treasures where moth and rust do not destroy.  God also reopened my eyes to a verse I had been trying to shove off in the corner: James 4:3, which says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  When I really thought about why I wanted to not only make it to finals, but also win it (which by the way, means you’re the top team in the whole tournament), it was for my own selfish good.  It wasn’t so that God might be glorified or His kingdom might be advanced, but so that I might be glorified and my kingdom might be advanced.

So, I surrendered that desire to the Lord.  I no longer “believe” that the Lord will take me to finals.  I do believe that He can if He wishes, but I don’t believe that is His foremost goal.

I have learned an important lesson this week.  Faith is not necessarily believing that a certain thing will come to pass.  However, in the words of John MacArthur, “Faith is a God given ability to trust the future that God has promised you.”

You see, it wasn’t that Abel had faith that God was going to allow Him to be killed.  But he did have faith in God’s plan and that faith caused Him to step out in obedience through his sacrifice.

Enoch didn’t have faith that he was going to be taken up, but he did have faith that God was planning a good future for Him.

Faith must be grounded on the Word.  It is grounded in the promises.  If God’s Word says it will happen, we know it will.  God’s Word says that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  God’s Word says that when we ask for the Holy Spirit, He will be given to us.  However, God’s Word never promises a good life. It never promises a lot of money.  The Scriptures never promise that Allison will make it to the final round at her speech and debate tournament.

So now, as I approach this next tournament, I don’t know if we will make it to the final round.  I don’t know if I will win first place in any of my speeches.  But this I do know: Everything will work together for God’s greater good—everything serves a purpose, even losing (Romans 8:28).  I know that God’s grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  He will work in my behalf far more abundantly than anything I God ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).  He will be glorified (John 12:28).

Now those are promises to stand on.


Allison is a 15-year-old daughter of the King.  Her aim in life is to be pleasing and honoring to Him.  She has a passion for God's Word and has begun a ministry dedicated to encouraging others in its pursuit. You can check it out at:

Monday, May 11, 2015

I can't change the past... but...

Treasure of my heart and of my soul
In my weakness You are merciful
Redeemer of my past and present wrongs
Holder of my future days to come

(from 'Your Presence is Heaven', by Darlene Zschech)

Someone told me something recently (and I don't want to go into details, so I won't), and it related to something I'd done in the past. It was a silly thing that I hadn't even thought was major. I was really surprised to discover that someone I know who was there at the time hasn't forgotten it and has formed a certain opinion of me because of it. 

I can't change the past. Sometimes I would like to, because it would make some stuff a lot easier!! But I can't change the past.

There's nothing really that I can do about this situation, either. I can't change the past, and I can't change how people feel about me. 

So this was sort of what I was thinking about when we sang this song (at the top of the post) on Church on Sunday. And it struck me.

God is the Redeemer of my past and present wrongs.

No matter what I've done in the past, no matter what you've done in the past... God is the Redeemer of it all. You are forgiven of it all. He wipes it clean and remembers it no more. 

Other people might remember what I've done. And there are still consequences of my actions... that other person will likely always have a certain opinion of me. 

But God won't. 

Isaiah 43:25 (NIV)
 “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

We are humans. We make mistakes. We say and do silly things that make us afterward facepalm and be like, "Why on earth did I say that?!?"

God is a forgiving God. 

No matter what silly things you've done in your past (I've done heaps!!!) God is able to forgive. And forget. Forever.

I'm so grateful for that.
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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Why Do You Follow Jesus?

Today, we are joined by our dear friend, Esther. She was the one that began JOJ, and posted for a number of years before leaving the team a few months ago. Thank you for sharing with us, Esther! :)

You could give the proper Christian answer—“I follow Jesus because I’m a sinner and He died for my sins.”

Yes, that’s true. That’s good.

But why do you—really—follow Jesus? What is it, deep down inside you, that makes you get up in the morning and read the Bible? What is your motivation for praying?

What is it that makes you follow Him like you do?

Picture courtesy of Pixabay/mcpdigital. License: CC0 1.0

For me, the real reason is that He’s showed me what I am without Him.

Without Him, I’m a cup . . . without water.

I’m a moon . . . without a sun.

I’m a star . . . without a galaxy.

I’m a leaf . . . without a tree.

I’m a letter . . . without a word.

Sisters, what makes you tick? Why are you following Jesus?

This is a question you need to answer now.

You see, we are growing up in a culture that is doing its best to undermine our morals, our families, and the core beliefs of our faith. We are called daughters of the Highest.

But when we don’t even have a real grasp on who we are and why we follow Jesus, we become a rowboat without oars. And that, my friends, is dangerous.

Sisters, in a few short years, Lord willing, we will be starting our own families. If we don’t have a grip now on why we are here doing what we’re doing, we are going to have a hard time passing those beliefs onto our children. A Christian family that doesn't know why they believe what they believe is doomed to failure.

So I beg of you—take time to revisit your early life as a Christian. Reaffirm in your heart why you follow Jesus. Ask Him to show you what you are like without Him. Ask Him to show you how to follow Him better.

Now, more than ever, the world is looking for your example—trying to see if you’re truly real or not.

Now, more than ever, the world needs a godly generation. Don’t fall for the trap of easy-believism.* 

God has called us to so much more. The Lord needs you in His battle for right. Your future family needs you to be a good example.

So stand strong, and do what’s right.

The Lord needs you on that field.

*Easy-believism: the belief that the Christian faith is merely repeating a prayer and going on our way, and therefore it doesn't matter what we do or believe—we will get to heaven anyway.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Trusting God in the Hard Times

The following is a devotion I wrote and presented at a camp I attended recently. :) - Bonnie

James 1:2
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Okay, so the first thing I want us to notice here is that James puts this little thought right at the start of his letter, straight after his greeting is over. Why? Maybe because it's important and he wanted us to take notice of it!

The second thing I want us to notice is that James says "consider it pure joy my brothers WHEN you face trials of many kinds" - notice it's not IF you face trials!

Trials and hard times will come to us. If you haven’t gone through any hard times in your life, don’t worry! No Christian is exempt. Trials will come, unfortunately. It's a matter of when, not if!

It's partly because we're in a spiritual battle and Satan is trying his hardest to draw us away from the faith. He doesn't concentrate on those who aren't Christians because he's already got them. We're the ones he's after, because we belong to Jesus.

I want you to imagine you’re baking a chocolate cake.

The two main processes of baking a cake are:

Blending. After the ingredients are all in the bowl, the electric beater mixes the ingredients so much that they are completely unrecognisable. The mixture becomes all soft, runny, gloopy and sticky.

Baking. The cake is subject to intense heat. It's incredibly painful. But the heat is what bakes the cake and produces something beautiful.

We are like that cake being baked. We go through the intense, difficult hard times and that's like the blending and the baking. In the blending we're mixed so much you wouldn't be able to recognize us! It's incredibly painful and hard. Then we're shoved into the oven and the heat is turned up. All the heat in the oven is concentrated on the cake, sitting there in the pan, being roasted alive.

When  we're being blended or baked, we can’t see what is going on. We don't know that the purpose of the blending and baking is to produce a beautiful chocolate cake at the end of it all. Only the baker knows. He has the finished product in mind throughout the entire process.

The uncomfortable blending, and the painful heat of the baking may seem really pointless to us at the time. But what we don’t know is that we are being fashioned into something beautiful. 

It’s only through the pain of blending and baking that we can become the rich, moist, tasty, beautiful creation of a chocolate cake.

When you’re in a trial it doesn’t seem very pleasant, does it? It doesn’t feel like it’s good for you.

But remember that God can be trusted. He knows what’s he’s doing. He is ultimately in control and he has in mind the cake he’s going for through all this.

I think that there are several reasons we have trials.

James 1:2 (emphasis added)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The testing of our faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that we become mature and complete, lacking nothing. 
The trials are for our good.

1 Peter 1:7 (emphasis added)
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

The trials have come so that the proven genuineness of our faith may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
The trials are for God's glory.

So all the hard times we go through are for our good and for his glory.

I want you to imagine a raging storm.

There are trees, bent low under lashing wind and driving rain, and lightning zigzagging across a dark, threatening sky.

In the center of the fury imagine a bird’s nest in the crotch of a gigantic tree.

And in the nest, a mother bird sits, spreading her wings over her little brood, waiting serene and unruffled for the storm to pass.

The mother bird isn't focused on the storm. Sure, she feels it and knows it's there, alright. But she rests, peacefully, waiting, looking after her chicks, because she knows that the storm won't last and she has faith that she will be kept safe.

When we’re in a hard time it’s hard to not focus on all the lightening around us. But we can be peaceful and rest in the midst of the storm. 

The safest place in the entire world is in the nest of His hand.

We, like the bird, feel the storm, but we focus on Jesus.

Isaiah 26:3 
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts you.

John 16:33 
I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world.

Blessings to you all!
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