How well do you handle change in your life? If you are like me, perhaps change is something you see as a necessary evil. You cannot stop change from happening, and so you force yourself to accept it. In the past, there have been times where I feared change in my life, and would try to do everything within my power to keep things ‘normal’ so I could feel secure. As I grow through life, I’m learning more and more that my idea of ‘normal’ is not always what God has planned for my life. Change is necessary to bring me to where I can be useful in God’s hands.
Recently I have experienced a lot of changes. Adjusting to living back in Taiwan (Summer is hot. . . REALLY hot. . .), getting engaged, getting married, changing jobs, moving to a new house, and not working at VOICE this year (sad face) to name a few. Of course, some of these changes are good and exciting, but even so, they take me out of my comfort zone.
For some of you, this is a time of year filled with change. Moving to new classes or schools, adjusting to family changes as people move away. For the VOICE class of 2014, some of you may be suffering from VOICE withdrawal and wondering how you can survive! Don’t worry, life goes on. And it goes on because we have fellowship with the One who gives life. 1 John 4:18 shares with us how God’s love drives out our fears. As we walk in fellowship with Jesus Christ and with our Christian family, we have no need to fear change or the future.
Christ is always with us, and has loved before we loved Him (1 John 4:19). As we experience change in our lives, remember that it is because God is guiding us in His love for His children. Even though our lives will be different than they were before, God will never change, and neither will His love for us. With this in mind, we can be accept and even look forward to the changes that God brings into our lives. And trust me, some changes are very good.
Joel and Vicky’s Wedding with awesome VOICE friends!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV).” These were two of the first verses I remember memorizing as a young child (oh so long ago). During the past 20+ years I have quoted and meditated on these verses countless times while contemplating life’s myriad of questions. Perhaps you’ve asked a few of your own; What should I study? Where should I look for a job? How am I going to pay for school/car/apartment? Who should I marry? What should I do with my life? If you are anything like me, you have asked these and many more, and have struggled impatiently with the unknown.
Even though I have been familiar with the words of Proverbs 3 for many years, I still have only started to realize the importance and truth contained within these verses. In the past year, the Lord has been helping me in His loving way to put aside my own understanding and ideas. As I shared with some of you at VOICE last summer, I had been looking for a job and still working through some issues getting my degree and teaching license taken care of, as well as trying to figure out how to live on my own in a foreign country. I often felt discouraged as one job opportunity after another failed to work out, and as each step forward required a mountain of paperwork. It seemed that everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong. Each time I thought about all of the things I needed to accomplish, I felt there was no way they could all be resolved. Could I find a job before my visiting permission expires and I need to go back to the US? Will I even have enough money to make it back to the US by then? I kept asking how long will I have to wait… And the Lord asked me to trust Him, and stop using my own understanding. I was still trying to fit what I thought I needed into my understanding of what God wanted for me. God told me to allow Him to demonstrate His love and wisdom promised in His word.
God, of course, is faithful and provided a job just in time. The paperwork for my ARC, some of which had to be sent back to the US for authorization, was approved a couple days before my visa expired. My teaching license paperwork was approved, and I’m even getting better at surviving here in Taiwan. Most importantly, God’s promise to direct my path was fulfilled, and I have many testimonies of how the Lord provided exactly what I needed. Praise the Lord for not letting me continue to try to figure it out in my own wisdom. God’s word is true, may we continue to walk daily Christ Jesus.
Do you ever feel like your life is a struggle and that you are often fighting against temptation and negative thoughts? Does it seem like your life is a war and you are fighting in a battle? If so, the reason is that we are in a battle, and our enemy, Satan, will try everything he can to discourage us and hinder our fellowship with Jesus and our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. So if you are fighting, keep fighting!
God has supplied everything we need for our battle in this life. Some friends and I were discussing Ephesians 6:10-18 about the armor of God recently. Each piece is a valuable part of our daily walk with Christ, and contributes to our success in our battle against sin and the world. It is important to remember that we are not fighting against other people, although sometimes it seems like we might want to. Our war is a spiritual war, and so we must use the armor and weapons God has given us if we want to be successful. At the end of verse 18, Paul encourages us to pray for each other, and this is one of our most valuable resources in our fight against the world.
Hebrews 10:24,25 says: “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” If you are fighting, do not try to fight alone! In our pride, we often try to hide our struggles from others so we can appear to have everything under control. However, God has given us fellowship with other believers to encourage and strengthen us when we need help. He created us to help each other and pray for each other. So if you feel like you are alone in your battle, look at who God has placed in your life to help you fight. We can also remember that part of our responsibility is to fellowship and encourage others. Recently I have been very thankful for my family and Christian brothers and sisters that are in my life, and have encouraged me to keep fighting. Do not fight alone!
Have you ever had doubts about your life as a Christian? Are there concepts within your faith that you cannot rationally comprehend with human logic? Often we are confronted with questions from unbelieving friends that may bring about questions in our own minds. How do we know that God is real, or that the Bible is true, or that the earth was created? Each one of us has struggled with questions either before we believed in Jesus Christ or after. James encourages us to embrace challenges, and to realize that through testing and trial, we grow in our faith (James 1:2-3).
In a recent discussion group some friends of mine host for local university students, we read the story of Jesus walking on the water and the response of his disciples from Matthew 11. Like Peter seeing Jesus defying gravity and everything my science book teaches about buoyancy, we find many ideas about God and living the Christian life to be difficult to believe. And like Peter and the rest of the disciples, our reasoning cries out: “It’s a ghost!” Or a fairy tale, or just too impossible to believe. But then we take a step of faith and trust that what God is telling us is true. We step out of the boat into the water and try to walk like Jesus does.
It is hard to leave the safety of the shore, or a boat, or whatever our logical reasoning has clung to in the past, and step out on the water. Peter did, and he started out fine. But then he noticed the wind and the waves, and began to have doubts about the reality of what he was doing, and began to sink in the water. We also may take a few steps in faith and then encounter circumstances that bring about doubt in our minds regarding the legitimacy of our faith and beliefs. Often, like Peter, these doubts lead us to rely on our own wisdom and reasoning, and we start to sink in confusion and fear.
Our doubts and struggles are indications that our faith is being strengthened. We have the opportunity to search out the truth for why we believe what we believe. Sometimes we may not find an answer to our questions that satisfies our own reasoning. This is when we step out in faith and believe in what we have seen, and heard, and know to be true. Step out!
At the end of class this afternoon, one of my Chinese teachers remarked that this would be our last weekend together as a class. Several of us were a bit confused as there are still two weeks left in the semester. Our teacher explained that she was simply joking about the idea that the world will end on December 21st. This topic sparked some discussion about what we would or should do if the world were to end next week. Our general consensus included spending time with family, spending all our money, and having as much fun as possible in the limited amount of time we have left. Surprisingly, no one wanted to continue studying next week. . .
We understand from God’s word that no one but God the Father knows when this world will end (Mt. 24:36). Therefore, we know not to worry or base our actions on what anyone tells us about when our time on Earth ends. However, today’s discussion in class caused me to reflect upon how we as Christians ought to live our lives. What if the world were in fact to end next week. How would we prepare to meet the Lord? What things in our lives would we try to change or remove? Most importantly, what would change in our methods of evangelism?
During this month, as Christmas approaches, we have many opportunities to share with others the true reason to celebrate. When Jesus ascended into Heaven after His resurrection, He promised that He would one day return. As we do not know when that day will be, we should be living our lives as if tomorrow could be our last day. Jesus commanded His followers to go out into all the world and share the good news of salvation with everyone. This is our responsibility and privilege, to prepare for Christ’s return by spreading the Gospel. Take the time you have been given to share God’s love with those around you.
This past month I had the privilege to be part of the VOICE conference. As most of you know, sports activities at VOICE can be quite competitive at times. One afternoon at the Northwoods, I joined in a game of capture the flag. The game was going along rather well until I discovered I am not as fast or as coordinated as I previously imagined. This discovery was introduced to me through a full speed, literal head-on collision with a student. After crashing to the ground and rolling a few times, I eventually began to regain my senses enough to ensure I was in fact, still alive. As I lay on the ground watching the last few scenes of my life flash before my eyes, I prayed that the pain in my leg did not indicate a broken leg, and that my face was not bleeding too much. Thankfully, all that was required was a bandage and a few painkillers.
The next day or so, we had a church service in the tower. Going up that many stairs was a bit difficult as I tried to disguise the pain and act normal. As I sat in my chair, I was thinking about how much my body hurt, and frustrated at myself for not being able to avoid the collision. About that time, David L. began our worship service by reading Isa. 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” When I heard that verse, the insignificance of my minor pains almost caused me to laugh at myself. At the same time, I had a tiny realization of the incredible physical and spiritual pain Jesus went through on the cross to pay the penalty required for my sins. The significance of Christ’s willing sacrifice out of love for me nearly brought me to tears. I had previously watched movies depicting the crucifixion of Jesus, read the Biblical account, and even heard testimony from medical professionals describing the intense physical pain Jesus went through on the cross, but at that moment the physical suffering of Jesus became real to me.
In living my life in a relationship with a real God, do my actions match my words? As imitators of Christ, we should be willing to love others the same way Jesus loved us. He was willing to suffer incomprehensible pain on my behalf, and yet I am often not willing to suffer embarrassment or rejection from others to stand for what I believe. This experience helped me to realize that nothing should hinder me from the responsibility I have of sharing the love of God with others that they too may know Jesus Christ personally.
Be bold to tell others what God has done in your life!
“It is finished.” This short phrase signified the completion of the work of Jesus on earth to provide the opportunity for all of mankind to be reconciled to God. It was a simple declaration of a Son to His Father, indicating Christ’s obedience to the will of God the Father. Christians across the world celebrate Easter this weekend, a holiday during which we remember the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf and the salvation made possible through this act of obedience.
As we remember the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus upon the cross, we are often confused by the behavior of people who one day welcomed Jesus as King, then screamed for His death. How could they be so blind to the love of Jesus? How much more confusing is it that we Christians who have read the story from the Bible and, to a limited extent, know something of the plan God had for us, so often take God’s gift of salvation for granted.
To follow Christ means to live as Christ lived. During this Easter season, we see the extent of the willingness of Christ to obey the Father, even unto death. How is that reflected as we live out our daily lives for God? Are we willing, like Jesus was, to obey God and trust Him to direct in our lives? What might we be unwilling to surrender to God’s care? How easy it is for us to hold on to our own plans and ideas. This Easter season, I encourage you to challenge yourselves to understand and obey God’s loving command to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus.
He Is Risen!
In this part of the world, Central Wisconsin, winter brings cold and a blanket of snow to cover the earth. The only vegetation that seems to be alive are evergreen trees and indoor plants. It is sometimes depressing to look out at a forest and see trees that were once green and covered with leaves now bare and grey. From all outward appearances, the trees look as if they have all suddenly died. And yet, once all the snow has melted and the warmth of spring comes, they seem to come to life again and grow beautiful.
I was recently meditating on how the Lord sees our hearts, and the hearts of our friends that do not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Before we knew Him, we were dead. There was nothing beautiful or valuable about our lives. And yet, within each one of us is the potential for new life through Jesus. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross provided a way for each one of us to change from something cold and dead to something new and living.
In our interactions with unsaved friends and coworkers, how do we see them? Are they simply part of our world that we interact with? As Christians, we have the responsibility from the Lord to tell others about Him and what He as done for us. We should see those around us they way that God sees them; Souls in need of salvation. In our everyday lives, our words and actions should lead others to the knowledge of Christ.
When I look out at the world, and see how so many reject Christ and what He has done for us, I am tempted to see a ‘forest’ of dead people. The Lord looks at the same people and continues to make His love available to them, and commands us to do the same. In our everyday lives, our words and actions should lead others to the knowledge of Christ.
Be bold in proclaiming the word of the Lord, and the love that Jesus has made available for all!