Beyond The Walls Continued

Alright, forward and onward! I discussed the church and how there is an issue especially here in America, where we stay within our own church walls and are reluctant to venture out into the world and make disciples in my post Beyond The Walls. I need to finish defining the Church by addressing what the Church truly is. Here are the points I hope to make between the two post. 

1) Tower of Babel to be used as an example of expanding the church walls, rather than expanding the church Body.

2) Define the church.

3) point out real life connections and how to remedy the issue.

4) What makes a believer? What makes a disciple? (Simon the magician)

5)  Mission minded versus number minded.

I spent more time explaining what the church is NOT supposed to be in the prior post. Here I hope to explain what we are as Church and what that entails. Scripture will be my voice here, Lord knows I’ll take some long journey to explain it in a roundabout way thousands of words later.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. – 1 Corinthians 12:27

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. – Romans 12:4-5

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. – Ephesians 4:1-7

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, – Ephesians 4:11-12

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, – Colossians 1:24

For you see, the Church is not a building, but rather each Christian makes up a member of the Body. We are the temple of God, the Holy Spirit dwells within us and by the blood of Christ we are redeemed. God does not dwell within your church building, so before you stand up at your next budget meeting and say “We must build a bigger steeple in the name of the Lord!” or “We need red carpets to represent the blood of Christ!” Check yourself and understand that God will not thank you for causing an uproar over carpets. In an instant that building could be wiped from the face of the earth, but the Body of Christ is eternal. We cannot allow ourselves to be so wrapped up in bringing people to the church building we built, rather we need to urgently take the Church to people! We each represent a part of the Church and we each hold a responsibility to carrying out the task of the Church, to make disciples.

 What is a disciple and how do we go about making them? Well first off we have to go into the word proclaiming the name of Christ to all. 

for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” – Romans 10:13-15

Second, we must mentor new converts and guide them as they grow in Christ. We must care for those who are in need and not neglect our fellow brethren.

If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:26-27

We must also not be fooled by simply believing the power of Christ and forsaking the name of Christ. In Acts, we encounter a man who performs magic and has amazed many. When Philip came to his region to preach he was amazed by the power Philip had through the power of the Spirit. It is said

“Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed” Acts 8:13

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” Acts 8:18-24

For whatever reason, we aren’t told what became of Simon, but we can see his errors. In verse thirteen he was baptized by water and followed Philip amazed by his power. In the verses to come Peter and John come through the same region and pray for the people to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the same power that Philip had could be bestowed on others, he tried bribing Peter for the Holy Spirit. Peter quickly corrected him and made it clear that the Spirit will not enter him due to his heart and intent, by prayer and repentance he could be redeemed. Simon had all the belief in the world that the power of Christ was real, but he did not seek to serve the Lord, he wanted to use that power to continue his magic. His request to Peter in the end, hmm perhaps that was his final request and then he went away. Regardless of what became of him, he believed for all of the wrong reasons. Much like those who seek and expect blessings from God. Simon was a believer, but not a Disciple. Even the Demons believe in the power of Christ and acknowledge His sovereignty, but they serve a different master.

To become a disciple goes beyond belief in power, it’s through a repentant heart and by prayer to God directly to forgive you of your transgressions. The Spirit knows your heart, and He will not enter a person who is unwilling to become a new creation in Christ.

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. – Romans 10:1-4

You can’t earn or buy your salvation. No number of good deeds will bring about a new creation with a new purpose and desire. If being good was the requirement for salvation, then we are all utterly doomed.

This brings me to my final point on my list, being mission minded. As stated before by Paul, how can they believe if they do not hear? How will they hear if no one is sent? The Church MUST wake up to this reality. Do you know where South Korea sends most of their missionaries? It’s here! In the united States, where we boast being a “Christian Nation”. I say “Christian Nation” because I am not convinced that our population is a majority Christian, neither are South Koreans convinced of it it seems. Believing God exists does not make you a Christian, and that’s how a lot of people answer those polls. We must break through our walls and reignite the flames to spread the gospel like wildfire. If we want to see our congregations grow, then we must first realize our first priority. At home and abroad we must preach the Word of Christ. By our own gifts and talents bestowed by God and the Holy Spirit we must each act accordingly to our part of the Body and together the Body of Christ can truly reach all the nations of the world! We must break down the walls we’ve created for ourselves and go beyond the church building and truly begin building the Church of God.

May the Lord Bless us and keep us as we venture into this endeavor.

   

 

Beyond The Walls

Imagine if you will, a great forest fire raging through the landscape. The fire blazes through everything it comes across until suddenly, it reaches a great stone wall. The fire rages for as long as it can, but the wall prevents it from going any further. The fire calms and the flames die down to burning embers, the raging fire has run out of fuel.

Now, how can this imagery be applied to help set a clear picture of a Christian and more importantly, the Church? What I hope the imagery assists the reader with is the fire that rages in our own soul for Christ. Each individual that is Baptized in the Holy Spirit is alight with passion for doing the Lord’s will and carrying out the Great Commission…right? What does it mean to be alight for the Lord? What would that look like for the Church? What is the Church and what is our purpose, our goal, our calling? I hope to answer these questions and more. I pray that I can bring to light walls that are preventing you from raging forward for Christ and together we can go beyond the walls!

To define the church, we need to first look at what Jesus said was our mission, our goal and our calling. more commonly known as The Great Commission.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:16-20

“Go therefore”, Jesus commands us to GO out into the world and make disciples of all nations. That is singly the most important purpose or mission of the Church. Other aspects that are very important to observe is fellowship with one another. We are called to be as one Body, one people united for Christ. Accountability, teaching and being taught, mentoring and being mentored. All of these are very important aspects of the Church, but they still don’t line up with what we are called to DO. We are called to go beyond the walls of the Church and to make disciples among the nations. Before I go further into what going beyond the walls would look like, let me first point to what remaining in our walls would be like.

Genesis chapter eleven, The Tower of Babel, the birthplace of languages. Before mankind was scattered by force, there was one universal language. The people reasoned with one another to remain in one location and to build a city and tower in order to build a name for themselves. They set out with a mission that God had not commanded them to do. In truth, God had commanded them to go into all of the world and to be fruitful and multiply. In Genesis chapter nine we see God speaking to Noah. 

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” – 9:1 

and again in verse seven.

And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

The people did not obey, they remained in their walls and built great wonders instead of going into the world as commanded.

Tower of Babel

 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. – Genesis 11:1-9

What then was the issue of building a city and making a name for themselves? What’s the big deal? Applying that to the modern Church, we can see modern correlations as to why that is wrong.  Notice in verse four how they even acknowledge that they do not wish to do as commanded, they have no intentions of going out into the world. They are more concerned with making a grand city and a tower reaching the Heavens. They have set out to make a name for themselves, their name and their fame outweighed the Lord’s command in their minds. 

You may see this amongst your own congregation, where the heated debates revolve around church projects and church building renovations and expansions. Now, if your congregation is fighting for a seat and people are standing in the halls for service, then expansion of the building is needed of course, but that’s rarely the case. More often we see congregations argue and even split over trivial matters, such as the color of the carpet, or the color of the paint used on the walls. Have we allowed the Church to forget its true purpose and calling? Are we more concerned with expanding the walls of the church than we are expanding the Body of Christ? As individuals we each must evaluate what it is we are fighting to achieve. Is it to bring others outside of Christ to Him and to make disciples or are we more concerned with numbers and how large we can grow a single congregation in a single city? God calls us to reach our local communities, there is no doubt of that. However, if we aren’t willing to go beyond our own cities to teach others of Christ, then how do we expect the locals to be attracted to our faith? It isn’t gimmicks (door prizes, food, gift bags etc.) and huge auditoriums that we need to bring people into the church. The Word of God alone is what is needed to bring people into the true Church, the Body of Christ. Scripture tells us that it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that someone comes to know Christ. I can guarantee you that no single person has come to Christ because their local church was equipped with hundreds of stage lights, fog machines, and a professional band. It was because of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Testimonies are filled with how Christ has saved them from their former selves. Through Christ alone are they saved, it is not due to a single pastor, a single worship leader, or any other. Although those may be the means by which people heard the Words of God or the opportunity the Holy Spirit took to stir people’s souls, it is not by their power that Christ was made a part of people’s lives.

In essence, my point is that we cannot allow the Body of Christ to abandon its true calling to chase after numbers in our pews and in the tithe plate (note: Tithing is a command, not a suggestion). How we spend our resources and how we minister to the congregation is vital to the health of the Church. A certain church comes to my mind that is well known, but widely unpopular in the Christian realm. Pandering to the world and taking tactics that water down the scriptures to limit sermons on Hell and focusing heavily on the blessings of God. This church has grown to be massive and takes in billions of dollars a year, which a vast majority goes right back into maintaining and expanding the building. I am sure that there are true believers in that particular congregation, however, when the pastor’s main focus is to keep the people coming and has painted God as a genie that will bless your life immensely if you continue attending church, then there are major theological issues involved. As humans, we would be absolute fools if we think God owes us anything. Does God bless His children? Of course He does! Out of love He blesses us! All that’s needed to destroy this teaching that God blesses us because we have been good is the story of Job. Having done nothing wrong, Job is tormented by Satan, yet he remains faithful and accomplishes the task God had set before him. He is humbled in the end after He questioned God, but that story alone makes it clear that we are expected to remain faithful to God even if worldly blessings aren’t given in return. He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sake! Who are we to demand more out of Him? God is not someone you barter with, you do not trade goods and services, you serve Him because He is the redeemer of your soul and your Heavenly Father.

Oh boy, I feel like I’m all over the place and I’m long-winded. For the sake of length I think I’ll split this into two parts. Below are some notes and I would like to ask that you please leave a comment letting me know if I have accomplished hitting all of my points effectively. I tend to doubt myself and feel like I’m just rambling nonsense.

 

Quick notes to return to later:

1) Tower of Babel to be used as an example of expanding the church walls, rather than expanding the church Body.

2) Define the church.

3) point out real life connections and how to remedy the issue.

4) What makes a believer? What makes a disciple? (Simon the magician)

5)  Mission minded versus number minded.

The Tormenting Storm

One thing about blogging, is that a traditional blog is about the personal life of the writer. Often times with the audience in mind, there is a lesson for those who read and follow the bloggers writings. However, being a blogger myself and having read and followed other people’s blogs, it is just as much a lesson for ourselves as it is for the reader. Now, if you’ve read my past writings, then you know that I do not tend to follow a traditional blog, nor do I make it obvious on what my struggles are. I like to mingle them into analogies and creative imagery. With that said, have I written this to say that I will be trying the traditional style? Definitely not! I hope to use a storm to describe my internal struggles and make it clear how difficult escaping such trials truly is.

  Imagine if you will, that you are standing in the eye of a hurricane. All around you is a frightening impassable wall of torrential water. Now, this storm is not new to you, it is a storm that you have faced numerous times. You were first introduced to this storm when its outer bands struck you. It was easy to handle then, a few strong gust came through at times, but nothing you couldn’t handle. Then one day it grew stronger, this storm grew in size and strength. It started to take you by surprise more often, you were caught in its path of destruction regularly. As you progressed through the storm, it grew in strength and caused more and more destruction. You wanted to find your way out, but the storm has grown so great and massive at this point you don’t know where the right way to go is. Trapped, trapped in the eyewall you are overtaken by the storm and succumbed to its will. It wrecks havoc on your life and everything and everyone around you is affected by it. Then, as sudden as the storm came everything grows calm. The sun is shining and all is at peace, you’ve made it to the eye of the storm.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Proverbs+1%3A20-33&version=NASB

Temptation comes at us just as a storm does. It starts out as a light and withstandable rain, but then it grows and grows until one of two things happen. We either stand idle and allow the storm to come or we put on the armor of God and guard ourselves against the coming storm. To my shame, I stood idle.

Standing in the eye I found myself in a place I have not been in a very long time. I had just stumbled and fumbled my way through a one-sided battle. There was this peace about the air in this new place, the storm still whispered in my ears, but I wasn’t quick to listen this time. I felt, I felt immense joy! A sense of happiness I had not enjoyed in what seemed to be ages! What I did next is a tactic of warfare and not always ill-advised. I retreated, I fled from the storm and hid. Never again did I want to face the storm! That storm that tormented me for so long!

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

There, I remained, within the eye of the storm. Even there in the eye, the torments continued. The storm taunted me on occasion, reminding me of what lies within. At times, I would slip and fall and the storm would catch me. There were times I would listen to the temptations and actually run into the storm! Eventually, I would come to my senses and hunker down in the eye once more. In the back of my mind however, I always knew that one day, I would have to face the storm head-on.

Trouble and anguish have come upon me,
Yet Your commandments are my delight. – Psalm 119:143 

 If you know me now, then you’ll know that I have a certain reputation associated with my name. Travis, the kid that never ceases to smile. Travis, the kid with the contagious laugh. Travis, that one guy who screams like a banshee when he is sprinting to the finish line! The last one may not point to how I am emotionally, but there was a time I did not smile, and a laugh was a rare sound. Early on in my high school years, I had broken through the wall of the storm and stumbled into the eye. It’s thanks to people like James Bridwell and Coach Hoover. At church, I had my youth pastor who cared for me and mentored me, leading me and showing me the path of righteousness. Coach Hoover created for me another family, a family that still stands strong to this day. With my Cross-Country family at school I had a new-found happiness! I still remember one of my friends on the team asking “Travis, why do you ALWAYS smile? Even in the hallway you grin and there is no reason to.” It’s true, I would walk the halls with a smile plastered to my face. Even when I wasn’t talking or walking with anyone. They couldn’t find a reason to my smile, but I had every reason to be immersed with happiness! It was the first time in a very long time that I felt going a day without sin was possible. My mind and body were healing after a long fought war, a war I realized wasn’t quite over yet. Everyday after school and before practice I stayed in the library and read my Bible. This Bible I later donated to the school and it’s still there. I’m the only one who has checked it out and it is worn out! Not with ill-treatment, but with so much usage! I completed the entire new testament before the season’s end and knocked out a good chunk of the Old. If I had to choose a time that I was the most godly in my life, it would be that year, my freshman year. That year, I was so highly immersed in the Word that God was at the forefront of my mind almost constantly. In the mornings I prayed, the afternoons I read, the evenings I reflected. Growing and learning I finally understood what the armor of God was and I now had a firm grasp of the Sword of the Spirit! It still shocks me when I read my yearbook and have multiple people say that my faith inspires them! I guess it surprises me because I know my struggles, I know what my storm is and what lies ahead. It is always encouraging to me to hear such things. It lets me know I’m doing something right.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10-17

Although this storm is not as large of a threat as it once was, I must remain vigilant and never cease my growth in Christ. To sheath my sword would mean defeat in the face of the storm. I still linger in the eye, the storm remains and the torments come. This is, as Paul describes it, my thorn in my side. I know that someday I will face this storm again, and when this day comes I have no intentions of losing. I will break through this wall once more, but this time I will not be trapped within the eye. I will emerge on the other end having conquered the tormenting storm that controls the lives of millions. I have discovered, the only way to overcome a storm such as this, one that controls thoughts and dictates actions, is to be immersed in Heavenly thought. Recall the hymn “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” place a special focus on this stanza. 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

How true this is! The world around you fades with its temptations and taunts when your mind is focused squarely on Christ thy Rock! My foundation, my fortress be! Heavenly thought leads to Heavenly action. A Christ centered mind leads to a Christ centered life! A much more happy and pleasant life to be sure! Oh how I love Him! The savior of my life and soul! Always remember, that with Christ, all things are possible. With the Holy Spirit dwelling within, any storm, no matter how powerful, can and will be defeated.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13 

I never quite know how my blogs will turn out. The ones where I am tormented in Spirit tend to be filled with emotion and heartache. As I write this however, I feel encouraged, renewed even. Remembering that I have stood firm against this storm many times before, I am confident that with some help, I can rid myself of this tormenting storm. May the Spirit lead and guide me and all of those who have taken the time to read my story. God bless you my friends, I appreciate all of you who pour into my life more than you may realize.

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. James 1:12-18

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+8&version=NASB

Precious Jewels

Here of late, love has been the topic on my mind. How to understand it, how to obtain it, how to grow in it are all things consuming my mind. I’ve been listening to pastors and teachers, reading my Bible and have been in prayer. Love is something I so deeply desire, yet I’m unconvinced I fully grasp it. To express genuine love towards someone and to have that same love expressed towards you. What does that look like…feel like?

I am convinced, that love should erupt the soul with life! Inexpressible excitement should overwhelm someone as they speak of the one they love with others. All the more should the soul rejoice in their presence. Someone who is precious to you should do nothing less to your soul. Whomever is precious to you deserves to be appreciated, valued without price, and cause a total change in your Spirit when you meet. Eyes gleam brightly, smiles cease to fade, and to join hands ignites the body. Your soul should be as a child. Abounding in absolute and pure joy! The two should grow together, strengthening one another and if the Lord should have it, become as one.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.

“Do you know what friendship is?” he asked.
“Yes,” replied the gypsy; “it is to be brother and sister; two souls which touch without mingling, two fingers on one hand.”
‘And love?’ pursued Gringoire.
‘Oh! love!’ said she, and her voice trembled, and her eye beamed. ‘That is to be two and to be but one. A man and a woman mingled into one angel. It is heaven.” 

  Many see this as a childish view of love, but how right Esmeralda is in the story! To grow together until the two are as one soul is exactly what God had intended for us. 

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

Seeing that many of us will one day be joined together with another, there needs to be an overpowering desire to protect what is precious. In Song of Solomon the brothers of Solomon’s wife say this while discussing what to do concerning their younger sister. (About age 11 or 12 as indicated by “she has no breasts”.)

We have a little sister,
    and she has no breasts.
What shall we do for our sister
    on the day when she is spoken for?
 If she is a wall,
    we will build on her a battlement of silver,
but if she is a door,
    we will enclose her with boards of cedar. – Song Of Solomon 8:8-9

The brothers are determined to protect their sister and will keep her from men who would take as they please and leave. Thieves in the night more or less. Men with no honor in them, men who are driven by passion, convincing the easily swayed that the passion they feel is Love. Willing to take and destroy what is precious to others is the most dishonorable act I can think of.

Consider Jewels, Precious stones, Gold and Silver. All are pleasing to the eyes and valuable. Locked away in vaults, glass casings and alarms to alert of attempted thievery. Vaults and policemen are there to protect what is precious and valuable. How much more is your value? Do not allow men to rob you, be a wall and know without a doubt that you are beautiful, valuable and precious. Within the castle walls dwell treasures that are desirable by all. Fend off the thieves and those with no honor. Grant the key to the castle defenses to only those of honor, valor and respect. Someone who does not wish to steal the treasures within, but to know, grow and protect what is precious. YOU are the treasures kept behind the wall. For a man to desire to know you, grow with you and to protect you is an honorable thing.  It should be a man’s desire to show compassion towards you, kindness towards you and to be the epitome of what genuine love is. Paul describes what genuine love looks like in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Furthermore, Jesus speaks of the greatest love one can demonstrate.  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13  Love should see no limit. Not even death should keep you from protecting the one you love. To lay down your own life for the sake of another is most admirable indeed. A true act of valor, to preserve someone who is more precious in your eyes than your own life. Just as Jesus laid down His life for our sake; we are precious in the sight of God, never forget this fact.

Consider the diamond also, the symbol of love and marriage. The strongest precious stone known to man, unbreakable as it is, so also should love be for one another. Ever growing, ever strengthening, love sees no limits. A foundation as strong as the immovable mountains, as staggering as the most grand of structures and a aura of pure genuine love. The love between two souls should be so immensely compelling that witnesses of such a strong love have their own souls stirred with emotion. “Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?” Song Of Solomon 8:5 These are the witnesses of Solomon and his wife returning from their time spent together. Just the two of them, furthering their love for one another. These witnesses know who they are, yet when they return, their love has grown so much greater that they do not recognize them. 

His left hand is under my head,
    and his right hand embraces me!
 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
    that you not stir up or awaken love
    until it pleases. – Song Of Solomon 8:3-4

Tenderly he loves her, he desires to know her and she desires to know him. Awaken love when the time is right, when love is ripe and passion is not the dominate force. Desire for a soul that is immersed in immense love. Love that will set your spirit ablaze and bare witness to all a pure and genuine love, granted by God above.

 Praise God our Father! The ability to love so deeply is a marvelous gift. Do not neglect this blessing, love one another just as our Father has loved us. Develop such deep love for your loved ones that Christ shines through and may all who bear witness to your love be awestruck by so great a love. 

 

Take Comfort

Suppress, suppress, suppress…it will be over soon. Hold it all in says my body, yet my heart cries in anguish! Be strong! Be a man! says my mind, yet my chest burns in rage! My throat clenches and I blink the tears away, still I hold back the flood welling up inside. Suppress, suppress, suppress…I’m afraid I can’t any longer. I cry out in bitter pain sounding like a wounded animal I whimper. I beg and I plead Lord take this pain away! For what comfort do I have? My world has been ripped apart. The man I longed to hear say to me “I’m proud of you Mr. Travis” or see him light up when I told him of my race performance, is now gone…What comfort do I have?

Be at peace my heart, for I have comfort in my faith in the Lord. Faith that as brothers we will be reunited.

O heart humble yourself and be at peace. Take comfort in your friends, for they suffer alongside you. Share the burdens of this immense pain and prevail as one body.

Find joy my soul, joy in those around you. Joy in your friends made family thanks to one man.

Seek love my soul. Feelings are ever-changing in the breeze, but love that is genuine, that is pure, that is divine, is eternal. A never-dying love with unconditional standards is a precious love to possess.

Be at ease my body, release the flood gates and expose the severed bond between two souls where my pain originates.

Seek humility O mind. To endure physical pain is the mark of manhood, but to mask emotional pain is the folly of a youthful mind. 

Take comfort, in the gifts of the Lord. My family I’m so blessed to have. My friends whom I love dearly and consider myself greatly blessed to have in my life. My ability to compete in a sport that has created the most precious bonds I possess. A heart so full of love that I’m able to give away pieces and still have plenty left for myself.

In these, I shall take comfort…In these, I shall find peace…In these, I shall find love.

God being our guide, we shall prevail over the pain of loss, and rejoice over the love that was left behind.

With much love I write,

Coach, you’re the real winner here, look at the size of your family! With much anticipation, we shall be reunited.

“He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” – Genesis 15:5

Shattered

I am fortunate, the Lord blesses me daily, but one of the greatest blessing bestowed upon me was the bond I developed with a great man while he dwelt here on earth. Paul Hoover was my Cross-Country and Track coach during my high school days. A coach turned friend, a friend turned family. My Cross-Country family and I are all shattered, essentially, last night we lost our father.

Broken vessels we’ve become, individually we are just a piece of a shattered mirror. Coming together we can piece together the mirror, but it will never reflect clearly as it did once. Light is always found in the darkest of places however, each piece now reflects its own reflection, its own memories, thoughts, and heart. Each piece is reflecting the same image, but at its own unique angle and light.

Coach Hoover is a father figure to many of us, always there for us even if we had graduated. My heart breaks on its own accord yes, but my heart breaks all the more for my brothers and sisters. My friend Stanley, who is much like an older brother to me would even visit Coach on Thanksgiving day. Thanksgiving is a day reserved for family and that’s what we are. There are some people who you meet in life that you bond with better than some of your own blood family. Coach was one of those people. 

I’ll tell you what, I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for Coach Hoover and the team. My first race I ran a 29min. 5K, I shot out for the first mile and quickly realized that I wasn’t ready for such a distance (for I was on the team only a week). I remember going up the wall of a hill (Miller Landing) and being passed by all of the girls on the team, each saying good job as they passed. I knew I didn’t really do well. However, with each race I dropped in time, and with each race coach expected more and more out of me. By the end of the year he told me that when I first joined he truly didn’t think I had it in me, “Maybe in the next year or so you’re make varsity time.” but he was surprised that I made it down to varsity time my first year, with my final time being 21:14. Following track season under the leadership of Stanley I marked my time down at 19:12. Running with Stanley after school was not just wonderful training, but something I looked forward to daily. After that summer I went into the season as one of the top runners on the team. I set my PR at 17:56 at our regional meet and even though we missed state by a few points I know coach was proud of us. It was the closest to state our  team had ever been. The following year we became the first boy’s Cross-Country team to make it to state with our school. Thank God He blessed us with such a feat.

I have much better stories to tell, but I’d like to keep those reserved for my family. They would only mean so much to those outside the family anyway. For us, precious memories are like Gold.

Coach had me ride with him down south to a dealership after I was out of school. He needed an extra driver for the return trip. I’m so blessed to have spent the day with him, we talked for hours and had lunch together. We talked about teammates past and present for a good bit. A new light was brought about him when he talked about the team. He was so very proud of everyone, his love for everyone was as genuine as it can be.

I want to refrain from using too many names on here, but each person we talked about was spoken of with love.

I wrote coach a letter a few weeks back, I’m so grateful that he got the chance to read it. I was able to tell him how much he meant to me. I have a hard time expressing my feelings verbally, so to have it in written word I believe it meant a lot to him. He told me himself actually, that he was proud of me and the team. We shared a special place in his heart.

Those Who Died in Christ

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

In time, we shall be reunited in Christ.

Lincoln Logs

Have you ever made an awesome structure with Lincoln Logs and you beg your parents to leave it proudly standing in the living room for the next few days? I sure have, many times in fact. When we build something that we’re proud of and is wonderful in our eyes we never want to see it destroyed. In the case of Lincoln Logs, we either beg for it to remain intact or we continue to add-on to it and your parents allow it to grow since you’re still technically playing with it. However, that is what most will do when they want it to stand, at some point, you grow bored. Pieces are running low, so new buildings aren’t as good or perhaps it’s just been sitting stagnant in the living room and you’re ready to tear it down. Then one day, you’ll start again on a new structure, that you hope to be more wonderful than the last.

The other night I was thinking about relationships and how they should grow and expand with time. What makes a relationship healthy, strong and loving? I was running a few thoughts I’ve heard from Andy Stanley and other pastors through my head; as well as 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen, refreshing myself with the qualities of love. Then I had the thought that relationships are much like Lincoln Logs. (a weird comparison I know) Lincoln Logs are always great fun when you first start building with them. You lay out the floor plan with the foundation, you start building up the walls adding windows and doors as you go. *Pretty soon you have a massive tower as your center piece and as I would do, place your plastic army men on high points to fend off the evil tan armies. After you finish building, you stand back in awe of what you’ve just created.

Now, I have seen some pretty cool structures built with Lincoln logs, but I’ve also seen some pretty basic huts or lopsided houses. Here comes the comparison, (it makes sense I swear) There are those who lack creativity and can’t seem to make a decent Lincoln Log house, so they make multiple houses. Destroying one after another trying to figure it out, many houses rise and fall. Perhaps they didn’t use the flat pieces for the foundation and it fell, or they forgot to add windows and doors and basically have a box. whatever the case may be, the houses aren’t really anything to be in awe about. Using Lincoln Logs as the visual here, imagine these poorly made houses as a relationship. Poor foundations, lacks substance, lacks care in the making, and they don’t stand for long. (definitely would not pass the living room test) the builder or in this case builders, failed to make a lasting structure, so it either fell on its own or they purposefully destroyed it. Truly, because it’s worthless to them. Unless the builders can learn to build a solid foundation, put care in the design and truly puts their hearts and souls into the making of the house, then the house will never really be wonderful.

The living room test – would your parents be proud of what you’ve built as much as you are? Enough to where they would allow you to display it in the most visited place in the house?

A healthy relationship starts with a firm foundation, with proper design and planning, building upon that foundation is the next step. Unlike Lincoln Logs where you can only build so much then must stop, a strong relationship never truly ceases to grow. The Lincoln Log tower is capped with a roof or a tower block, but a relationship cannot be capped, it must continue to expand. Both builders must love what they are building, take a step back, look in awe, then ask how to make it better.

There are many different avenues I could take, such as the structure must be evenly built. (Evenly Yoked) I could go on to say more about building the structure up and how to maintain it. However, the point I want to place the most emphasis on is the foundation. Nothing stands for long on weak foundations, such as the house built upon the shifting sands. 

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” – Matthew 7:24-27 (NASB)

In all relationships strive to build a strong foundation first and foremost. In your friendships, with your siblings, parents and especially your spouse. (best get a move on if you’re married with a weak foundation) Although I used Lincoln Logs to compare the structure of relationships, never treat a relationship as a game. It’s not something you can simply pick up, play with till you’re bored and throw away as if it’s yesterdays news. Far too often the dating tactics of high school follow people into adulthood and they pick up and drop relationships over and over. To build ONE lasting structure that is wonderful and leaves you awestruck is far better than a trail of destruction.

Below are links to Andy Stanley’s video series “Love, Sex and dating”. I highly recommend this series, especially for students in high school who through society tend to have a morphed view of what a relationship looks like. 

http://northpoint.org/messages/the-new-rules-for-love-sex-and-dating/the-right-person-myth/ – Video one

http://northpoint.org/messages/the-new-rules-for-love-sex-and-dating/gentlemans-club/ – video two

http://northpoint.org/messages/the-new-rules-for-love-sex-and-dating/designer-sex/ – video three

http://northpoint.org/messages/the-new-rules-for-love-sex-and-dating/if-i-were-you/ – video four

I would recommend for the ladies to watch video one then three, go back to two then four. Everyone must watch one and three though, if nothing else watch those two.

*Note – In case you’re wondering, I still do like to bring out the ol’ Lincoln Log set and my armies of plastic army men. Lincoln Logs are the Bee’s Knees man!