Never In Vain

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Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever… If you reject the ragamuffin gospel and turn your back on Christianity, do so because you find the answers of Jesus incredible, blasphemous, or hopelessly hopeful. ~Brennan Manning

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain…. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. ~Paul, The Least of The Apostles, in Galatians 2 and Philippians 2

Oh beloved, it is true. Everything we are doing in our service to our King is so backwards to the ways of the world. None of it makes any sense to those who see things only from the perspective of body and mind.

Even those around us who are somewhat (or very) religious, can look at a soldier of the cross, and begin to think that we are taking things just a little too far. Who do we think we are to be going off and actually believing that the Bible is to be taken seriously when it says that G_d wants everything?

Much of what we’ve done, much of what we were, and so many of our relationships seem in vain.

Some of us were so broken. And many of you brothers who are reading this were probably some of them. We were hopeless. Anything that might be done in our lives was going to be in vain. We were addicts who would rather stick things in our veins than be set free. We were (we thought) doomed. And yes, even we, many of us – have been set so free that we can hardly even believe it.

Many of us are were in family situations that were completely unfixable. Humpty-dumpty, and his shattered shell, looked like he was in much better shape than our relationships. And still, into this situation G_d did pour so much Love and grace that we have been restored.

Often, we are in jobs that we know have potential to feed us, but where we don’t feel we can make any difference in people’s lives. Sometimes we wonder how we are ever going to get out of the dead-end that we are in. And even here, G_d uses us in ways that we might not even expect. A co-worker finds Jesus. A boss is moved by the integrity of our work.

There are many other instances and examples here, I am sure you can name more areas where things seem hopeless and vain, and G_d shows up and shows off…. But this week, I was even more impressed at His ability to do things exceedingly, abundantly, beyond all we hope or imagine.

This fool of a writer is also an international educator. I teach Bible, Worldviews, Apologetics, and Honors Philosophy at a school in Northern China. That I even get the privilege of teaching subjects like this in a controlled country is a amazing! But has been even more amazing, is my lack of faith in my calling.

Christian Education seems so slow. It has little flash-bang. No altar calls. Not emotional pleas for kids to come to Christ. And yet, this week, I have been listening to some 12th grade seniors who grew up in Asia, in non-believing and Buddhist and Confucian homes declaring that they have embraced Christ and gave powerful arguments as to why this was true. I had honestly wondered if we were making a difference in so many of these kids lives. Were we just burning up a lot of Kingdom resources giving simply a quality education to kids?

Wow, was I wrong.

Can we see it? The beauty of this slow approach to presenting the Gospel is that many of the students have not made emotional decisions. They have, rather, decided with their heads and their hearts – based on the information they are

getting in their Biology, Bible, Science, Philosophy, PE, and Math classes. They are seeing that G_d is in all of the knowledge they are getting – and this makes all the difference.

So, are you feeling like the place where G_d has you is useless? Don’t. He has never done anything vain in your life till now. And nothing He is having you do is going to be in vain. Trust Him. Let Him pour you out as HE sees fit. We will see the fruit. Just give it time.

Tonight is your night beloved. Time to believe you are valuable in His Kingdom. No matter what you are doing for Him.

Makala_FF 2016

Written by Makala Doulos: Makala is a child of G_d, a husband to his wife, a father to his children, and a teacher to his students. But mostly, he is a prisoner set free by Jesus. Love has invaded his life, crushed it, and made it new. Now, G_d’s Love is what constrains him to live in full surrender to the freedom The Father and Son and Holy Spirit have bought for us all. Grace and Peace to you all.

 

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 145; Proverbs 27

Daily Quote: “My spirit turns to Thee and clings, All else forsaking, unto Thee; Forgetting all created things, Remembering only “God in me.” O living Stream; O gracious rain, None wait for Thee, and wait in vain.” ~Gerhard Tersteegen

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

25 I have been young, and now am old,
    yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
    or his children begging for bread. ~Psalm 37:25

Gospel Pioneer

Walking in forest

“For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” ~Philippians 1:20-21 (NLT)

So let’s start this off with a question that can have many layers to it…What are the characteristics of a mature witness for Christ? Now I’m sure you have a list of things that you believe makes a mature witness and I just may not give a rebuttal to it just for this simple reason, I may not know it completely myself. My reasoning in this is pretty much based in something that we seem to do and that is we spend time making the list with characteristics that aren’t signs of a mature witness.

Now I realize that being an axe-wielding homicidal maniac may not a good characteristic and it’s something NOT to be BUT it doesn’t deserve to be on the list. As we scroll the list… “Oh here it is, #13. Thou art doth not to be an axe-wielding homicidal maniac if thou art doth to be a mature witness.” It should go without saying and you may be rolling your eyes right now over it but it is something that we do, it’s probably just less severe but you get my gist.

However we bring what not to be into the conversation of what to be all the time. And let’s think this one through, if you were chained to a Roman guard 24-7, like the Apostle Paul was, would you spend that time telling that guard what’s wrong with him “Dudeious Maximumius you’re a poor witness because you’re nothing but an axe-wielding homicidal manic” or would you use that time telling him what he could be if he was resting in Christ Jesus? “Dudeious Maximumius have you ever considered being a Gospel Pioneer?” “Gospel Pioneer you say…hmmm, now there’s a thought.”

The term Gospel Pioneer comes from Gregory Brown’s study on Paul’s Epistle to The Philippians (Philippians: Pursuing Spiritual Maturity). The characteristics of a Gospel pioneer are cool things like being fearless, being courageous, having boldness and can encourage those around him to do likewise. After all we have been called to spread the Gospel to places where it hasn’t been heard and yes that means in our own backyard.

Too often we let circumstances that have no eternal Kingdom value dictate the characteristics we take on as a witness. If we’ve been addicted to one thing or another, it there has been divorce, imprisonment, rejection, financial loss or abuse of some sort, it’s these things that we allow to shape the character of our witness. If we’ve saved and redeemed all we need to do is start our list from that point and choose joy to guide where we glean our traits of character.

Charles Swindoll (in his book “Laugh Again”) makes this really cool statement, “It’s not enough, however, to simply say, “I choose to be joyful.” To choose joy means that we set our minds on the kinds of things specifically listed in Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.” Think of the mind as a bank that regularly receives deposits. By depositing the kinds of thoughts mentioned above, we build up and draw on a rich account that will constantly yield a high dividend called joy.”

As I keep digging into the second half of the first chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians I am hoping to discover that joy Paul found within himself to give such a great report on how his brand of Gospel pioneering allowed him to turn prison chains into a pulpit but until then let’s think upon this; despite the circumstances that surrounded the Apostle Paul (being falsely accused, beaten, wrongfully arrested and imprisoned) he chose to continuing moving forward with spreading the Gospel Good News even if his audience was only the Praetorian Guard. Could we make such a choice under those kinda circumstances? It’s a stretch I realize but if we take what Christ endured on His way to The Cross as the baseline for Gospel Pioneering there is much we need to check in at the door when we approach the Throne Room. Amen?

Chris Hughes_FF 2016

 

Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married with two adult children and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 135; Proverbs 17

Daily Quote: “Our inner peace will be tossed back and forth according to the whim of events beyond our control. But if we exercise our “right” to choose our attitude—the one basic freedom that can’t be taken away from us—we can choose joy even in the midst of the cruelest circumstances.” ~Charles Swindoll

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand.

 ~Psalm 37:23-24

 

Maintain A Joyful Attitude

teenage boy under rain in the city

“Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” ~Philippians 1:4-6 (NLT)

Attitude. When we say the word “attitude” among folks today there seems to be something uncomfy about it. I guess it’s because we are waiting for a negative adjective to be attached to it. To say one has a bad attitude seems the norm today and then to say that at all seems to be the only time we bring someone’s attitude. Maybe it’s not like this in your circles of life but in mine it is an everyday thing to overhear. A worker that doesn’t do a particular task (because they weren’t hired to do this task) displays their attitude as anti-team and therefore they maintain a bad attitude towards the job.

I think if there was anyone in Scripture who could’ve had and maintained a bad attitude it would have been the apostle Paul. Well I think he had one when he was a “Pharisee of Pharisees” but Jesus Christ changed that attitude over to one that found joy in affliction. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 we get a long list of things that Paul endured during his missionary travels. One time with getting 39 lashes is enough to send me into a “This ain’t happenin’ no more” attitude but Paul was different because Jesus made it different for him.

There was something Paul understood and that he had to have an attitude of joy. None the matter of people, possessions or circumstances when your confidence is in God joy is the resulting attitude. It didn’t matter the difficulty of the paths he walked or how much of beating he took walking those paths, Paul’s choice he to put his confidence in God. As Chuck Swindoll wrote in “Laugh Again”, Paul’s confidence in God guided him like an inner compass, always keeping him on joy’s course regardless of the gales that blew.”

So here in lies this question: Do you have that same inner confidence in God guiding you? If you think not, then maybe we should examine this confidence of Paul’s…

Paul’s time Philippi church planting didn’t go wasted. Because they were consistent, alive and actively participating in the Gospel on our their own. He states that quite clear in his opening lines of his letter to them. It’s in verse 6 that you can feel the firm confidence that Paul has that: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” and it’s in this that three reasons of Paul’s confidence appear. That God was at work, in control and His plan for His glory was being followed in the Philippian church.

The thing that kept all of this influx is having a “keen discernment.” The church went Gods way because the people of God of choose to go God’s way. For any church to be able to grow in the grace of God is having God’s people, individually make the conscience effort to have a full and complete knowledge of truth on one side and a keen sense of right and wrong on the other. And I believe this comes from people who choose to maintain a joyful attitude by placing their confidence in God.

As a contributor to these Freedom Fighter blogs you gotta be asking…Do I do this myself? My answer to that goes like this…He who BEGAN a good work in me WILL PERFECT it until the day He comes back or chooses to take me home. I have confidence in this because it is a promise of God. Do I express this joy and confidence at all things at all times? Well I need to that better but I am pretty sure I’m alone in this either (not that this excuses me for my falling short).

To finish up for today let me borrow from Chuck Swindoll and say there are three principles we need to glean before we set sail into our day. First, confidence brings joy when you focus on the things for which you’re thankful. Second, confidence brings joy when you let God be God. Third, confidence brings joy when you keep love within proper limits. Giving thanks to our God is becoming a lost art. Today lets band together to regain our joy in the LORD by giving Him thanks in all things…even if His answer to somethings are “NO”. Amen?

Written by Chris Hughes: Chris, a graduate of The Colony of Mercy (11-2003) is married with two adult children (you may remember them from summer staff) and serves on the Deacon Board at Trinity Alliance Church in Cologne NJ.

The Daily Bible Reading: Psalm 123; Proverbs 5

Daily Quote: “It’s easy to understand why the world doesn’t see much joy reflected in Christianity today. We’ve quit practicing the art of thanksgiving, and without it, joy will remain a very scarce commodity.” ~Charles Swindoll

This Week’s Verse to Memorize:

This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them. ~Psalm 34:6-7

More Writing From Chris Hughes: