Posts Tagged ‘challenging’

A Lesson From the Movie: War Room

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Dads, Encouragement, Grandparents, Moms, Prayers, Praying Together

I hope all of you see the movie War Room.  Not only is it an encouragement for marriages, there are so many other life lessons we are reminded of.  One of them is the influence we have on our children.  In the movie, their daughter, Danielle, writes down a list of prayers she has for God.  She learned this fromseeing her mom’s list.

What an incredible opportunity we have to lead our children to experience God’s answered prayers!  He is the same God that parted the Red Sea, healed the injured, rose people from the dead, etc.  (You may need the reminder, too, that GOD does answer prayers; He is powerful; He is at work today.)

Do your children see you fervently pray?  Do you pray with them?  Pray in boldness, so your children will grow to know that Jesus does care, is alive and is at work!

We have the greatest opportunity, responsibility and privilege to

tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,

    his power, and the wonders he has done.”  Psalm 78.4
Toward the end of the movie, Danielle checks off an answered prayer, deepening her trust and faith!  I’m convinced, if we will pray with our children & teens, they will grow mighty in faith!

If you want the parents and grandparents at your church to catch a vision and be equipped for making faith at home a daily routine, look into scheduling our parenting conference. (See here.)

Helping you have Homes Devoted,

Jonathan

What Death Taught Me

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

This month marks the 9th anniversary of the death of a friend of mine. She was 24. Her family were missionaries to Mexico and Haiti; a beautiful picture of God’s love. They were hard at work when, one day in 2004, they received word that their daughter had cancer. Within a year she had gone home to be with the Lord. She was an amazing young woman – I hadn’t known her that long, but the love of Jesus radiated from her like a brilliant light shining on a dark night.

 

I remember visiting her one day at her home. She lay in bed, too weak to sit up. All we could do is talk to her while she listened, and then she would slightly whisper into my mom’s ear. But she was stunning. Through all the pain, tears, and physical hardships, she loved Jesus like no one I’ve ever seen. You could tell just by looking at her laying in her bed. When she died, I cried the entire funeral.

 

Looking back now, I learned so many things about life just from this one young lady. Death can be a painful instructor, yet one that teaches us lessons we remember throughout our lives. Here are three which stand out to me (I by no means have these perfected, but continue to work on them daily).

 

1)     Life is a Vapor. You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” James 4:14 says it perfectly. We don’t know how long we have on earth, which means we need to make our time count. Be a “fragrant aroma” (2 Corinthians 2:15) to the world around you in everything you do, always pointing people to Christ.

2)     We Don’t Know Who’s Watching. When this young lady died, I don’t think she knew what an influence her life would have on people. She had no idea that nine years after her death, Beecher, who was just a little kid, would be writing about what an impact she had on him. Her testimony was both lived out and spoken in front of everyone – people all over the world. Who knows how many people were forever changed by just one encounter with her?! We never know who’s watching, and we never know if we’ll see that person again – so make a difference in their life.

3)     Our Lives can Create Lasting Repercussions. If you do what God calls you to do, whatever that is (one thing we do all know he’s called us to do is to spread the Gospel and love others), your life will have a lasting impact. Just like Shelby’s. You see, this young lady’s name was Shelby Kennedy. Her life still impacts people. How? Well, in 2009, the first annual nationwide Bible Bee was put on by the Shelby Kennedy Foundation. Thousands of kids participate every year, memorizing thousands of verses, and then compete to win the Bible Bee. It is an incredible event. And it all began because of this one young lady who was pursuing Christ passionately and spreading his love.

 

You see, our lives go much farther than just our little “circles”. They can create lasting change that impacts countless people for good. But we have to be living intentionally. Follow Christ and do what he commands you to. Serve. Love. Give. Disciple. And if you haven’t been living intentionally, start today. God will redeem the time “the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25), and you can start afresh. Go make your life count – you never know who God will change through you.

 

Questions:

Who’s someone in your life that inspires or challenges you to become better? Write them a note today thanking them!

What’s one thing you can begin right now that will have lasting change? Maybe it’s a Bible Study or serving someone, but do it now.

4 Steps Toward Starving Your Pride {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

 “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

 

I have a question for you: Are you prideful? Not the kind of pride that expresses itself through yelling yourself hoarse during the basketball game, or the kind that makes you proud of your sibling after they’ve just accomplished something meaningful. Not even the kind of pride that gives you that satisfied feeling after a long day of productive work. I’m talking about the kind of pride that makes you resent someone for butting in on your conversation with a friend, or the pride that looks down on the guy who doesn’t do something the same way you do. The pride that gives you the feeling you deserve something for accomplishing a task, or taking pride that you hang out with a certain group of people, and “that kid over there” doesn’t because they’re not too cool. That’s the pride I’m talking about, and the pride that will knock you right off that high horse.

I’m going to make a statement which is bold, but true: If you’re a living and breathing human, you’re going to struggle with pride. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, but you will in the future. Especially if you’re a guy. For some reason, men have a massive issue with pride. Let me illustrate in simple terms. You know those Tom turkeys you see strutting around in the field, blown up like a balloon with their tail feathers in the air and prancing around like they own the world? They’re the bird equivalent of what guys tend to do – strut around, lording it over the other guys with what they know, wanting to look like they’re that much better than the ones around them. Pride is a major issue in life – we want people to like us (or at least think we’re cool), and often we believe the best way to draw their attention is to blab about what we know. Supposedly.

Since we know we will struggle with pride at some point, here are four actions we can take to discourage pride in our lives:

  1.  Pray. Pray against pride. Pray that God will keep you humble through your successes and failures (face it – even when we fail we can tend toward pride. It’s just a messed up thing we tend to do as sinners). God wants us to bring our requests to him, not for His benefit, but for ours. In prayer, we become more aware of our weaknesses and His strength, and the fact that we alone are powerless to overcome that weakness. But when we petition Christ, seeking His grace and His strength, it is then that our failures can be overcome through Christ.
  2. Serve. Want to combat pride? Serve! Get out and help at food banks, deliver items to families in need, volunteer at the homeless shelter and the pregnancy care center – just SERVE! Pride only likes doing things that make me look good. When you serve, you’re putting the focus on others and contributing to their success. And while you serve, you’re giving time and resources, which can further starve pride. One note of caution: Check your motives. You can serve for your own benefit, just to grow people’s admiration of your “good character” and not to inhibit the growth of pride. Don’t serve so that people will see you – serve so that others will see Christ through your actions, and be pointed to him.
  3. Focus on others. This is similar to number two, but this point applies to all of life. Look around you – there are plenty of things that need to be done: take out the trash, unload the dishwasher, fold the clothes, help the little old lady across the street… the list goes on and on. This is not only an action step, but it’s really a mindset you must take. Observe how you can be of assistance to others, and then go do it! You may not feel like taking initiative,  but as you begin doing it, your feelings will follow (“act your way into feeling” as my pastor says).
  4. Do it for God’s glory. What do I mean? Well, don’t do anything for your own personal gain. Phillipians 2:3 above challenges us not to do anything from “rivalry” or “conceit.” Before you do something, ask yourself “is this for the good of someone else (or God), or am I doing this so that others think more highly of me?” That question should help you draw out your motives, and bring to light why you do what you do. 

 Pride is something that I struggle with, and will continue to struggle with. You will too. The four steps above are not the key to conquering pride, but they will help in starving out pride in your life and replacing it with a mindset of “other centeredness”, which leads to humility – counting others more important than yourself.

Questions:

  • Why do you do what you do? What are your motives for your actions?
  • What are some other ways you nourish humility and starve pride in your life?
  • Find three things to do this week that demonstrate “other centeredness”, and then do them.

From Prison to Prince {Encouragement for Young Men}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Boys, Teen Guys

Truly great men seem few and far between these days. Men are either effeminate, or they seem to be animalistic. This is why it is so refreshing to come across a man who stood up for truth, purity, honesty, and sacrifice. Recently I’ve been studying the life of Joseph from the Bible. What God has shown me is amazing. Joseph went through trial after trial – hatred from his brothers, slavery, false accusation, and imprisonment – and yet continually trusted God. And the Lord worked through him in every situation.

 

You very likely know the story of Joseph. If you don’t though, here’s the story at whirlwind speed. Joseph was his father’s favorite son, sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, and who was purchased by one of Pharaoh’s military leaders. However, when Joseph was accused of trying to sleep with his master’s wife, he was thrown into prison, and kept there for some time. When the head baker and head wine taster for Pharaoh were thrown into prison with Joseph, they both had dreams which he interpreted correctly (or rather the Lord did it through him). Joseph, though, was forgotten  until one day when the King had a dream and none of his wise men were able to interpret it. The wine taster remembered Joseph,  Joseph was sent for, and he interpreted the dream.  He explained  that there were going to be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh was so pleased, he placed the former prisoner in charge of the entire kingdom!

 

Joseph worked hard storing up grain until the famine hit. When it did, he was ready. And then, lo and behold, his brothers appeared looking for food (the famine wasn’t just in Egypt)! They didn’t recognize him, and, after putting them through several tests, he finally reveals to them who he really is – their brother!

 

There are endless lessons we could learn from the life of Joseph. However, here are five that we can apply to our everyday lives.

 

1. Give your best wherever you are!

Joseph not only worked hard as a slave (and then as Pharaoh’s second in command), he put everything he had into every job. He held nothing back. God blessed him, and he was given commanding positions of authority in every area of his life.

2. Real men show humility.

Joseph did not take the credit for anything. He gave it to God. Genesis tells us multiple times that “whatever he [Joseph] did, the Lord made it succeed” (Gen. 39:23). Joseph acknowledged to Pharaoh that interpreting the dream was not his own work, but God’s.

3. Sometimes in life we need to wait.

After Joseph interpreted the head baker and wine taster’s dreams, they were released and promptly forgot about him (although the head baker was hanged, so he didn’t have much opportunity to talk about Joseph). Joseph stayed in prison for two more years after that! That’s a long time! Often times in life God wants us to wait on something. It may be to teach us patience or to show us something about ourselves. Whatever the reason, use the “waiting time” to grow closer to God and serve him.

4. Circumstances in our lives may not be what they appear.

Joseph’s circumstances in life seem pretty horrible at the beginning of the story. Joseph realized though that God uses each and every thing that happens to us for His glory and for our good! Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”

5. Be bold rather than bitter.

We may not always feel like life is “fair”. We can either choose to be bitter or we can pursue life with boldness. Joseph didn’t allow what could have made him extremely bitter (his brothers’ selling him, being forgotten by the wine taster and baker, for example) to affect him. He pursued God and life with a passion, not allowing his circumstances to drag him down.

 

Questions:

  • What are some ways you’re standing up for truth, purity, honesty, or any other character quality?
  • Joseph faced many trials, yet didn’t allow them to drag him down. Are you allowing your trials to rule over you, or have you determined to keep pursuing God and living life passionately?

 

All I’ve Ever Needed {Encouragement for Teen Girls}

Written by Jonathan on . Posted in Blog, Challenging, Teen Girls

The guitar felt good in her hands.



Adrenaline washed over, pumping through her limbs as she stood on the stage.  She allowed her eyes a momentary scan of the crowd, a sea of faces, bathed in lowlight. Her heart thudded in her ears.



Her left hand’s fingers found the strings, pressed them to the fretboard; her right hand ripped down the sound hole.  She stepped up to the mic; belted out that first note.  The rush consumed her.

 

She was born for this.

 

What is your dream?  What makes your heart beat faster?  What are you living for?
In the movie Grace Unplugged, Grace Trey longs for a life of music.  Her dad, a famous rock star, now a humble worship pastor tries to dissuade her, trying to convince her of his own emptiness in the industry, but she refuses to listen.  Instead, after a final fight with her dad, Grace runs away, chasing an opportunity in California.
What Grace finds is everything that she ever wanted–fame, fans, fortune.  But just when she reaches her highest point, the opportunity that she’s always dreamed of, she realizes her own emptiness.
She thought she had everything she ever could want, but she realized that she was missing the only thing that she ever needed.
The story of Grace Trey struck a chord in my heart.
Probably because mine is similar, only not so extreme.  My dad and I sing together, we’ve led worship together at various events and churches over the years.  The thrill of hearing my voice paired with my dad’s or stepping up to a microphone, or just when the music just flows… it makes my heart beat faster.
I was about 13 and I dreamed of becoming a recording artist.  I played my guitar religiously.  Song lyrics oozed out of my brain (though I was never able to finish one… go figure, lol).  I worked my voice–timidly at first, being only 13, but at 14 I grew more confident, and well… loud.  As I’m sure my family and friends will testify.
But I was missing something.  At first, I was driven by my love for music.  My love for the thrill.  My love for my dream.  But it was then that God got a hold of me, shortly after I turned 14.
We had gone through a tough year, God and me.  I won’t go into gross detail, but suffice it to say, 13 isn’t the easiest age.  I had learned what it meant to be forgiven and loved.  I had rededicated my life to Jesus.  But I hadn’t really learned what that all meant…yet.
I still remember, lying there in bed, headphones on, listening to a CD my parents had gotten me for Christmas, Passion Hymns: Ancient and Modern.  The last song came on.
“Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord to Thee.
Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise…
 
Here am I
All of me
Take my life
It’s all for Thee…”
As the song went on, listing assets in life–surrendering them all to God.
And it hit me.  Everything.  He wants everything.
 Because it’s about His glory.  Not my dreams.
Maybe He would use my dreams for His glory, but that was up to Him to decide.
It was mine to give them to Him to do with as He saw fit.
It was then that I realized that I already had everything that I needed.  His love is enough.  His love is sufficient to fill me with the thrill, the passion, the pulse that drives my heart–and make it beat faster at thoughts of His glory.  With His love, I don’t need my dreams to feel fulfilled.  With His love, I don’t need the approval of man.
With His love, I am a princess, daughter of the King of the universe, beloved of the Prince of Peace, Bride of the Lamb, Chosen of God.
Now, my hands strum my guitar, my voice belts out His songs as an overflow of my heart filled with His love.  People have made comments about the smile on my face when I sing.  To this, I take no credit whatsoever–because it’s all because of Him.  I can’t help but smile when I think about the words that I’m singing.  Words that express His love.
Without His love, my dreams are empty.  With His love, I have all I’ve ever needed.
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing…But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
 
~1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13
 

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