"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." ~Jim Elliot

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I'm Buying Stock (And I'll Get a Huge Return)

This month I have had more time to read. The feeling I had was, at times, heartbreaking: because of an incident which happened some time ago and because of my busy work schedule, my habit of reading was crippled for a season. Picking up Mere Christianity and working through it has been like learning how to walk again. My world was shaken for a time. However, at long last, I think it is safe to say that the dark valley (which actually began in 2011 and was only continued by more recent incidents) has finally come to an end.

So I read again. And when I read, I write.¹ And when I write I blog. And sometimes I blog what I write outside the blog.

So tonight perhaps it will be beneficial to share what I learned today from expecting something and getting less. Having gone through the most successful job interview I have ever been through and yet receiving a job with ramifications I had expected would be different, God revealed to me the pride in possessions I was clinging to. So here is a lesson from the much blessed and not-quite-as-much thankful average Joe:

Placement of Happiness
We Receive What We Give Away

It is our highest and most noble call to seek happiness in God, for what we put our happiness into we put our lives into. If I am to put my happiness into work, I will have failed because my job one day will cease. If I am to put my happiness into my family, I will have failed because one day my family will cease. If I am to put my happiness into my faith or hope² - again, I will have failed because one day faith and hope will cease. But if I instead put my happiness into God, it will not be in vain.

The logic follows: that means that if God were to ever end, putting any joy in Him would be a waste of time as well. If anything, for that matter, has an end, it is not worth our happiness. This is precisely the heart of the matter. If one day God will die, He is not worth our happiness. But if He is who He says He is - and He is - then I can put my happiness into Him. He does not end. If I put my happiness into God, it will be eternal happiness.

And, therefore, if I put my treasure into God, it will be eternal treasure. If I give my praise unto God, it will be eternal praise. If I sing a song to God, it will be an eternal song. If I give a script to God, the words will never cease to be. For although all these things end by themselves, God does not end at all. All we give to Him will live on in His mind. And all we place into Him we will receive back, and all give to Him will be given back a hundredfold.³

1. This has led me to compile a collection I am calling 2013: The Summer Papers. This blog may contain some of those writings in the near future.
2. This, of course, is a deeper issue than how I worded it. For clarity's sake, it is not our own faith we trust in - Christians do not put faith in their faith. They put faith in God. True, our faith and obedience bring us happiness. But ultimately and finally, any lasting happiness we receive happens because it is grounded in God; no virtue is an end in itself. I.e. our happiness can be grounded in our faith because our faith is grounded in God.
3. This, of course, is one of the summer papers.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"I Will Not Go Unless..."

What is your favorite story from the Bible? Of all things, it is this question that has stumped me for a long time. I can give my opinion about election and the doctrines of grace, I can talk about cessationism/continuationism, and I can go on and on about free will vs. God's will. Covenantal theology? That's getting harder. Eschatology? Okay, I'm lost.

Those are all dogmatic in nature. That's great - I can deal with apologia. But for the longest time I haven't even been able to choose a preference when it comes to Bible stories. So let me think, here. Ehud has to be one of the funniest for sure. Jesus dying on the cross is the Sunday school answer. Uh, I like parables...

All of that nonsense changed this week when a certain story came to mind. (Good riddance! It's a shame for a person not to have a favorite Bible story!)

Since I have been here, I have prayed significantly more than I was praying in Indiana. It has been one of my spiritual focal points. As I said in an earlier post, not having a job is a blessing in disguise; this is one of the reasons why. Not using prayer is perhaps the stupidest thing I have done in my life. It's not just a front-row seat to see the God of the universe - it's a backstage pass. And we can use it all day and all night.

And don't we all have much to use it for? People, in case you haven't noticed, life is hard. The world is a dangerous place. People get hit by cars (as one of our church members did this week). We're called to share the greatest message in the world with people who may reject us, and that's scary (a few different friends and I are experiencing this fear). There are wildfires that kill (19 Prescott hotshots died the day before I came to Arizona). People get cancer (friend's aunt). I don't know that there has been a day that I've watched the Phoenix news and didn't hear of a shooting or some other form of homicide.

A lack of prayer says, "I don't care about people who have cancer. Fires are bad, but we'll get over it. Yeah, people die. But people are dying every day. I know I'm supposed to make disciples, but I'm really not that bad of a Christian and evangelism is awkward, so I'll just try not to think about it."

And even worse: "I can handle it on my own."

Believers who care about important things in life are those who see that life is not right. Those who want to kill their sin will get serious about it. True Christians will spread their faith, and they will even suffer for it. That's the way life works. All of these things are impossible for me. So I will turn to another impossibility: I'm going to wrestle with God. And limb gone or socket dislocated, I will not go unless He blesses me.

Genesis 32:24-32
Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.

1 John 5:14-15
This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Promised Photos

Lessons I've Learned from the West

1. Sunscreen five times in one day? The California sun DOES NOT CARE!

Yeah, I felt that one during the night. As can be seen, Toby had it worse than I did. It was well worth it though: first time I was in Cali in 18 years and first ever visit to the Pacific Ocean.

2. Worry not of what you can control not. Worry is pride revealed. It displays a lack of trust in God. Everything will be okay for people who love God, those who are called according to His purpose. (Hey, that  last part sounds good, doesn't it? It's like someone important wrote it).

3. The people at Northwest Community Church are - by far - the most welcoming church group I have every been a part of. It's great!

4. Nephew and niece are awesome. Period.

He loves my hat. =)

5. Even though living in a log cabin was pretty interesting, I greatly appreciate my house. Here's a mini tour of part of it.

This is my bedroom.

6. What I lost as far as scenery goes: cornfields, greenery, Bradford Pear Trees, the country.

What I gained: mountains, sunsets, Lemon and Orange Trees, Cacti, the desert, the city. I'll take it.

7. Sometimes we pray for good things, but God withholds them because He has something better. Such is the current case with my job situation. Pray that I would soon find a place to work so I can put some more money away toward college. And even more importantly, pray that I would have patience while I wait for God's perfect timing.

Enjoy the photos! Subscribe, comment, email me with questions and prayer requests: jmross94@gmail.com.

Monday, July 8, 2013

One Week and Counting

There are many lessons to learn at any point in life, no matter where one is or what he is doing. Today is the one-week mark of my arrival in the Valley of the Sun.

The Run-Down
- It's hot: I'd say 110 is the average high. I prefer this to Evansville's muggy summer heat though.
- No word on a job yet. I've applied to a few places but haven't heard anything back. Today I'll start following up.
- This weekend I have an opportunity to go to Southern California on a beach retreat with the college and career group from my new church. Even though yesterday was my first time at the church, I felt very welcomed and right at home.
- Having time away from a job is a blessing, not a curse. I've been able to focus on listening to quality gospel-centered music, catching up on some coursework for college, and - most importantly - digging deep into God's word (1 Thessalonians).

The Greatest Lesson...
God has taught me so far is that fear will be a temptation in any circumstance that has potential for uncertainty. It doesn't matter where I am, or even the exact thing I am doing really; fear will always present itself. But God's love at work in me annihilates every trace of it.

To Come
Again, I must apologize for not putting up more pictures yet. Just hold tight for a few more days. =)

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Fear is Fleeting

Being able to take time away from a job is a humbling experience and a challenge... and a blessing. I find myself texting much more, but I suppose that is because I left part of my heart (my brothers and sisters in Christ) in Indiana. More of my time is spent online, but that could be attributed to a desire to finish my course.

The true up side of this season in life comes from spending more time in prayer and in the word. Verses and passages of the Bible keep running through my head. They encourage me, comfort me, strengthen me - they help me make it through the day. Probing into each little phrase of a passage has caused me to explore God's word in a way I have only in part before. It is different, but it is amazing. Each little part has something useful for my life. It goes into my spiritual arsenal, and that's good because I sure need to stock up.

Life is a battlefield. It wasn't always this way - I wasn't born a fighter. But I was born again a fighter, whether I knew it or not. Christians are the most loving and hateful people at the same time. They are meek and ruthless. It has to be this way because God deserves to be worshiped and sin deserves to be killed, we require love and our flesh merits hatred, the lost need to be saved and the devil needs to be squelched.

What is your monster? (You probably have more than one). Devour them, or they will devour you.

No, an easy move and picture-perfect transition were never promised. But I wasn't born for what was easy - I was born again to love God, to make Him known, and to fight the monsters that try to stop me along the way even if I am nervous. Fear is not an option; it is a cancer. And through the power of God's word and His Holy Spirit, I will defeat it. Period.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

I'm Here

One hundred and ten degrees is hot. Yay for the pool!

Though I don't have time to describe at length what has happened thus far, enjoy the pictures from the trip. I'll post some of the house interior as soon as I can.

 For those who don't know, Kansas City BBQ is delicious.

The Lone-Star State.

A rain storm we saw (and eventually drove into) in New Mexico.

A delicious breakfast burrito, compliments of John and Debbie 
Brown. Albuquerque is notorious for delicious spicy foods.

At one point in the trip I could see 7 miles of road in front of 
me. Who knows how far the mountains themselves were.

Arrival in my new state of residence.

First cactus (plural: cacti) spotting.

This Arizona mountain range, called the White Tank Mountains, 
is visible from the road that goes right by the subdivision I live in.

House, not home. =)

Somehow, the heat seems bearable.

To be continued.

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