Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

(I came across this post I’d written quite a few months ago, and decided it was perfect in light of starting off the New Year. What better time to take a spiritual inventory?)
Yep, how fruity are you? Are you displaying spiritual fruits, fruits of the Spirit? Here’s different categories of godly fruitiness:

Paul, in Galatians 5, made a distinction between fruity behavior and not so fruity behavior:

“19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

Good fruit: love, joy peace, forbearance (patient endurance), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control

Bad fruit (rotten tomatoes): sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies

I was reflecting on this passage last night after I received some disappointing news. God has chosen to close 2 doors I was sure I could easily walk through. No, or not now, He had said. In the wake of my disappointment, a whole slew of negative attitudes and perspectives came to the surface, and I realized they were not fruity, but more like rotten tomatoes. I was seeing impatience, self-focus, jealousy, and an impure heart. I was full of pride, bitterness, and I felt like I was in the right to feel that way. It was time to take a spiritual inventory.

So that night, I pulled out the Scriptures and read Galatians 5:22. As a believer, I should be living out my life full of all this good, heavenly fruit, but my my heart did not have love, joy, peace, patience, or feelings of kindness. I was in love with my ideas for my future, with myself, and not with God and others. I was discontent and restless, not sitting in joyful peace, which God gives us despite our circumstances. I felt angsty towards others, towards myself, towards God’s plans. I was not in control (as always) and I didn’t like it. I didn’t agree with what God was doing. I don’t like not having the answers. But then I realized, having love, joy, peace, etc. in my day to day life would make me a happier person, and no one was keeping me from this fruity life but me.

Therefore, I have decided to use this “waiting” time that I did not expect, this area in which I could be moping in disappointment, to see other areas of branching out. To love on others, to practice patience, to cast my idols of my own dreams and demands before God and re-evaluate my priorities.

Are you living a fruity life?

Savoring God’s fruit,
Larkin

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Falling is not Failing

Posted: September 18, 2014 by liftyourvoice1 in Godly Manhood, Godly Womanhood, Testimonies
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If my athlete falls, then did he fail?

Some coaches would say yes. It is obvious to them. You failed to do the skill properly. You failed to do exactly as you were told. You failed to exercise control over your muscles. You failed to land.

You failed.

But gymnasts fall down every day. And even the best gymnast has fallen down. In fact, I would venture to say that is the best gymnasts who have fallen the most.

Gymnastics is a sport with inherent risk—every activity involving height, speed, or motion involves risk. So in training, athletes are bound to fall. It is a calculated risk. A manageable risk. But still a risk none the less.

So when I think of falling, I do not think immediately of failure.

Instead I see the process of perfection, the pursuit of excellence. I see athletes building strength, character, and will. I see athletes disciplining their body and commanding their muscles to obedience.

If they fall, they have not failed. They have discovered and succeeded in finding one more way how not to finish that particular trick.

They have displayed courage and aggression towards their challenge.

They have faced risk and confronted fear and stepped one step closer to mastering the skill.

    Application

Likewise, life is a sport with inherent risk. The chances we take can lead to a solid landing, or a fall flat to our faces.

I started a business at nineteen years old. Somehow, I pulled the resources together, found and united a staff, and then opened my doors for business in July of 2013.

It was exciting, it was scary, but in this analogy it was a new “skill” for a relatively inexperienced new “athlete.” Sure I trained for it, I was the head coach and manager of a facility before this. Sure I knew the sport, I was a national level judge and elite level athlete. But none the less, the risk was high that I would fall on this new skill, this new adventure.

I knew the risk going in, and almost decided the risk to be too great. I almost considered myself too inexperienced and too young—the rest of the world certainly did.

But I took the advice I had been giving my athletes for years: face the challenge, display the courage, and confront the fear and some one step closer to success.

Even if my business fails, even if I fall flat on my face, I will consider the experience a success.

Because the risk was losing a company, but the potential return on investment, the potential reward… was changing the lives of children, impacting the lives of those around me, becoming an example to those I lead, and leading those in my witnessing field towards Jesus Christ.

The risk was great. The potential was greater. And I believe eternity to be a different place because of the ministry God has given me in gymnastics.

If one day I fall and my business fails, It will simply mean then end of one ministry and the beginning of another—with the same veracity as the one before it.

Falling is not failing.

    Going Deeper

Therefore, my advice—for what is worth—is to be smart. Don’t take on risk for the sake of risk. Don’t fall for the sake of falling. That, I would consider foolish.

My advice is this:

Reach for the stars. Dream big. And do not let anyone tell you that you are too young, or too inexperienced or too (insert any other excuse here) to change the world around you.

Do not let the risk of falling hold you back. As I said before, I think the best gymnasts are the ones who have fallen the most. They have certainly trained the most, they have certainly worked the most, and they are certainly the ones with the most exposure to, and risk of, falling.

Whatever you are, be the best at it.

If you are going to dream, dream big. If you are going to work, work hard. If you are going to reach, reach for the stars (because even if you fall, you’ll still land in the clouds).

Falling is not failing.
Failing to try—that is failure.

-Nicholas Minney

The Difficult Questions

Posted: May 29, 2012 by andreacaresse in Uncategorized
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It has to be one of the most difficult questions… where answers just never seem to do it justice.  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do we experience such tragedy?  If God loves us, why does He allow such difficulty?  I won’t begin to say that I have the perfect answer to these questions, or that my conclusions will rest all concerns in your mind.  But what I will write has come from my own experiences, and from seemingly useless tragedies in my own life… and from them I have found some reasons “why.”

When tragedies strike our lives they can be devastating.  It’s so easy to fall into a pit of desperation as we struggle to grasp the reasons behind terrible events.  Perhaps it’s the sudden loss of a loved one, a dear friend diagnosed with an incurable disease, a trusted individual who suddenly walks away, or even a physical and personal assault on your life and body that leaves you feeling empty inside.  When these things happen, the first questions we ask are: “Why, God?” “Why me/them?” “Why now?” “What possible good can come from this?”

When we’re in those moments, and those tragedies strike, it’s easy to forget that God has control.  We can’t imagine why God would allow such things, so we wonder if He could even stop it.   The difficulty lies in understanding that God does allow bad things to happen, but for an ultimate good.  “How can anything good come from this?” you ask… and this is an understandable question; don’t feel shame from asking it.  God knows we are human and have only our earthly viewpoint, and He knows how much we can handle. (Psalm 103:14)

Like everyone else on this fallen earth, I have experienced many tragedies in my life.  When evil would strike, a few years ago my response would be nothing but fear, confusion, doubt, and anger.  “God, why won’t You do something?  If You can stop it, why don’t You?” would be my main cry.  Not many years ago such tragedies would rock my faith foundation to the core.  The main reason for this is that I simply did not trust God.  I wasn’t sure if He really had my best interests at heart, or if He even really cared.  I say all this because trusting God in all circumstances is so extremely vital, especially in tragedies.  If you don’t trust God and believe that He has your absolute best in His heart, then you will never find peace in tragedy.  Even when we do trust and have absolute faith in Him, difficulty can cause us to lose our focus and doubt His goodness.  But if we never trust Him, we will never reach beyond those feelings of doubt and our hope will never rise amidst calamity.

When I heard about this week’s topic of “tragedies,” one example immediately came to my mind that I knew I must share, and that is the story of Tanner Cox.  In 2005 one of my cousins, Tanner who was only 10 years old, was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of brain cancer.  He underwent operations to remove the largest mass, but there were three more tumors still present and he began chemotherapy.  For two years he battled this disease and underwent treatments that took a major toll on his little body.  Throughout his journey, he inspired others by his faith and endurance.  His joyful spirit became known to all who interacted with him: family, friends, classmates, community members, local motorcycle groups, doctors and nurses at St. Jude’s, dolphin trainers at Sea-world through Make-A-Wish Foundation, celebrities like Vince Gill, and even the Yankees baseball team (his very favorite).   His family did everything in their power to make his story known so that prayers would be lifted on his behalf.  They maintained a website for updates and at every opportunity asked for prayer.  His condition appeared to be improving until one check-up revealed that the tumor was growing again.  Despite intense chemotherapy treatments, experimental medicines, and thousands of prayers, Tanner passed away two years after the diagnosis.

What good could come from this?  It may be hard to understand… but because of Tanner’s life, and because of his faith (and that of his family) the Gospel was shared countless times.   There are dozens of stories in those two years of people watching Tanner and his reactions and becoming inspired to learn more about his faith.  Many accepted salvation in Jesus Christ because of this boy’s testimony.  At his funeral, literally hundreds of people came.  All day during visitation a line stretched around the building to pay respects and show support for the family.  On the police escort to the cemetery, the police gave Tanner’s convoy a memorial solute as it passed by… even though he was only a civilian, and no one in his family was on the force.   Tanner made an impact; other lives were impacted by his.  A twelve year old who died of one of the world’s rarest forms of brain cancer made a tangible impact on the world around him the few years he had.

Even though Tanner’s story had a seemingly bad ending in our world’s standards, it in truth is producing a good outcome, because his life’s impact is not over.  Tanner’s physical body is the only thing that passed away. His soul is alive and thriving in Heaven celebrating in the presence of God’s glory.  Likewise, his testimony and example are still stirring in the hearts of everyone who hears it.  If you have read this, his story has impact you.  We may never know how many lives were changed by Tanner, but we know for sure that many came to salvation and are now living a more satisfying life, not to mention are now destined for Heaven instead of Hell.   Tanner and his family may not have seen what impact his life trial was having on others at the time, and likewise, we may not know this side of eternity what the purpose is behind tragedies in our own lives.  But when God is in control (and He always is), all things truly do work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28)

From other trials in my life, especially those that have affected me more personally, one of the biggest, but hardest, lessons I’ve been able to learn is that there really is a purpose behind everything.  Our God isn’t a god of confusion or chaos; He is the God of order and intentionality.  It took me a while to understand this and accept it.  It took going through seemingly “useless” tragedies and then seeing incredibly great blessings come from them years later.  Goodness that I could not possibly have anticipated down the road.  Now when devastation happens, I am still in shock (that will never truly go away), but I know that there has to be a purpose.  This give me hope amid despair.  And I know that God has all things in His control, and I know I can trust Him.

When you trust someone, it isn’t based on emotions or feelings, but on the experienced and demonstrated character of the individual.  Either by words, actions, or behavior, they have proven themselves to be trustworthy.  Throughout Scripture God has proven that He can be trusted.  Even when His chosen people turn their backs on Him, He is consistent and follows through on His promises.  Throughout history people change, but God never changes.  He is constant.  He is the most trustworthy Person you will ever know. There may be days and events where you don’t feel like trusting God, but that doesn’t mean He can’t be trusted.  Our feelings have no impact whatsoever on God’s character.  Don’t just take my word for it, the Bible is full of testimonies of God’s trustworthiness: Proverbs 3:5-6Psalm 22:3-5Psalm 56:3-4Psalm 37:5-6Isaiah 26:4Psalm 111:6-8Psalm 31:14-16Psalm 118:5-9Psalm 91:1-4.  And these are only a very few of the numerous passages that describe God’s faithfulness.  Especially in the Psalms we can find a reflection of our own hearts in times of tragedy.  The author of these poems experienced great trails and we can read how he cried his heart out to God when he experienced pain…  And we can also see how he rejoiced when God answered his cries.  God may not answer us in the time and way that we expect or desire, but He is always there holding onto us.  You can trust Him.

A second lesson I have learned more recently, and that is that whatever we experience makes us better witnesses and tools for ministry in God’s Kingdom.  Whatever you experience now will strengthen you later.  Just like a broken bone is stronger after it heals.  When it happens it hurts like crazy and you want to die, but that won’t last forever… the healing will come and you will be stronger from this tragedy.   There have been so many instances in recent years where a friend will come to me and describe a situation they are struggling with or are going through, and I am thankful, truly thankful, to be able to say, “I’ve been there, I know where you are.”  If I hadn’t gone through the storm myself, I wouldn’t have been able to help them through it either.   When we go through tragedy and come out the other side we are then able to help others in the midst of it.  We can empathize and not just sympathize.  It’s one thing to say, “I’m so sorry…” and quite another to say, “I know exactly how you feel right now…”  There have been many times when I’ve thanked God for allowing me to experience heartache.  Without it I wouldn’t have gotten stronger in my faith, and wouldn’t have been able to help my other brothers and sisters in Christ.

If you’re in the tragedy right now, the pain is all you can feel, and I know —  it’s hard… I understand.  But God understands far better than I ever could.  He knows more about your situation than even you do.   He saw it before it even happened, and He sees what will come from it years from now.  Trust Him.  He knows what will happen because of this event, and every other event in your life.  Find rest in knowing you are in His hands, that He loves you, and that He has an ultimate good that will come from this.  Believe God when He says, “I will be with you.  I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5)   Even though you may not be able to feel His presence in this moment, He is always holding you.  He will never let you go.  And He has incredible, good, and beautiful plans for you.  Never forget that.

Proof of An Afterlife?

Posted: January 10, 2012 by liftyourvoice1 in Heaven
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This weeks topic on Lift Your Voice is “Heaven.” It is a very broad subject and I have yet to sit down and discuss with Dr. H as to how we will approach the subject as a whole. But, the inspiration for the topic this week is the book “Heaven is for Real” by Todd Burpo. I was given this book for Christmas and I read it in one day. It is an excellent book and it chronicles the true story of a Todd’s son Colton and his trip to Heaven. I would recommend this book to anyone. It is a heartwarming true story, and it can strengthen the faith of many believers.

On that topic in particular I will be discussing. For our regular listeners you will recall that we did a show on doubt several months ago. When I was younger one of my biggest doubts and worries was about the after life. It was a struggle for me, and I believe for many people still living because we simply do not know what will happen when we die. Will I see a bright light? Will it be like I’m sleeping? Will I just cease to exist? Even though I was a young believer these were the questions that graced my mind. But, thankfully as I’ve grown I trust in what the Bible says. I believe that upon my earthly bodies death I will see my Savior in Heaven and spend eternity with Him there.

But there are still doubts and doubters out there. They ask questions like what proof is there other than the Bible? We live in a culture that seeks evidence. As Dr. H often says Christianity and the Bible is not about blind faith, but about having evidence to back up what we believe. Thankfully in a book that was given to me for Christmas there is an article that tackles this very subject. The following portion of this post is taken from the book “The Complete Bible Answer Book” by Hank Hanegraaf. The title of the article is called “Is There Evidence for Life After Death?”

–IS THERE EVIDENCE FOR LIFE AFTER DEATH

Atheists believe that death is the cessation of being. In their view, humans are merely bodies and brains. Though they reject metaphysical realities such as the soul a priori (prior to examination), there are convincing reasons to believe that humans have an immaterial aspect to their being that transcends the material and thus can continue to exist after death. Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland advances several sound arguments for the existence of the immaterial soul.

First, from the perspective of logic, we can demonstrate that the mind is not identical to the brain by proving that the mind and brain have different properties. As Moreland explains: “The subjective texture of our conscious mental experiences—the feeling of pain, the experience of sound, the awareness of color—is different from anything that is simply physical. If the world were only made of matter, these subjective aspects of consciousness would not exist. But they do exist! So there must be more to the world than matter.” An obvious example is color. A moment’s reflection is enough to convince thinking people everywhere that the experience of color involves more than a mere wavelength of light.

Furthermore, from a legal perspective, if human beings were merely material, they could not be held accountable this year for a crime committed last year, because physical identity changes over time. Every day we lose multiplied millions of microscopic particles—in fact, every seven years, virtually every part of our material anatomy changes, apart from aspects of our neurological system. Therefore, from a purely material perspective, the person who previously committed a crime is presently not the same person. A criminal who attempts to use this line of reasoning as a defense would not get very far. Legally and intuitively, we recognize a sameness of soul that establishes personal identity over time.

Finally, libertarian freedom (freedom of the will) presupposes that we are more than mere material robots. If I am merely material, my choices are merely a function of such factors as genetic makeup and brain chemistry. Therefore, my decisions are not free; they are fatalistically determined. The implications of such a notion are profound. In a worldview that embraces fatalistic determinism, I cannot be held morally accountable for my actions, because reward and punishment make sense only if we have freedom of the will.

While the logical, legal, and libertarian freedom arguments are convincing in and of themselves, there is an even more powerful and persuasive argument demonstrating the reality of life beyond the grave. That argument flows from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The best minds of ancient and modern times have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that Christ’s physical trauma was fatal; that the empty tomb is one of the best-attested facts of ancient history; that Christ’s followers experienced on several occasions tangible post-resurrection appearances of Christ; and that within weeks of the resurrection, not just one, but an entire community of at least ten thousand Jews experienced such an incredible transformation that they willingly gave up sociological and theological traditions that had given them their national identity. Through the resurrection, Christ not only demonstrated that he does not stand in a line of peers with Abraham, Buddha, or Confucius but also provided compelling evidence for life after death.

-Adapted from Resurrection

For further study, see Gary R. Habermas and J. P. Moreland, Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998).

Matthew 10:28
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

(This excerpt is taken from pages 121-124 of the Book “The Complete Bible Answer Book” by Hank Hanegraaf)–

I found truth in these words and  I pray that you do as well. I also found comfort in the words of Colton from the book “Heaven is For Real.”  On page 119 Colton is talking with a man who is dying and he says these words… “It’s going to be okay. The first person you’re going to see is Jesus.”  For followers of Christ we can trust those words. And what amazing words they are. I cannot wait to see Jesus face to face in Heaven and if He truly is the first person I’ll see when I get there how grand it will be.

Brandon Witmyer–Host and Director of Lift Your Voice Ministries