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OFFENDED? T HAt D oeSn t M AKe YoU R IGHt ARE You Great I n An O rdInAry WAy ?

More than conquering

The opposition
A publication of On My Own Now Ministries, Inc.

GENUINE MOTIVATION Young Christian Man Oct/Nov 2013, Vol. 4 On My Own Now Ministries, Inc., Publisher Rob Beames, Editor Editorial Support Jonathan Braschler Donna Schillinger Page Design Contributors Rob Beames, Steve Braun Will Dole, Sam Harris, Chris Miller, Thom Mollohan, Jason Moore Except where noted, content is copyright 2013 On My Own Now Ministries. Articles may be reprinted with credit to author, Genuine Motivation and www.OnMyOwnNow.com. On My Own Now Ministries, Inc. is a nonprot organization with a 501 (c) (3) determination. Your donations aid in our mission to encourage faith, wise life choices and Christ-likeness in young adults during their transition to living on their own. We welcome submissions of original or repurposed articles that are contributed without expectation of compensation. May God repay you. Visit us at www.OnMyOwnNow.com.

in this issue...
FOREMOST
BY

Just because youre Offended Doesnt mean youre Right


J AS O N M O O R E

z
.3 .6 .8 .10 .12 .14 .16

PRESS ON
BY

How to More than Conquer the Opposition


WILL DOLE

REAL RELATIONSHIPS
BY

Guys Dont Ask for Directions


SAm HARRIS

CAN YOU RELATE


In it, Not of It
BY

ThOm MOLLOhAN
BY

CORNEREd
BY

Ordinary Greatness
ROB BEAmES

GRAcE

DESERT JOURNALS
A Soldiers Treasure
BY

ChRIS MILLER

SPIRITUAL BRAWN
Pushers Get Pushed
BY

StEVE BRAUN

FOREMOST
BY JASON MOORE

OFFENDED
DOESNT MEAN YOURE RIGHT

JUST BECAUSE YOURE

recent television commercial was met with outrage. The commercial shows a mother explaining how important it is to get a good price on the name brand clothes that her son wants to wear. Next, we see the young man eating lunch with friends at school as the mothers voiceover continues, I hear these clothes can make or

break your year. Poof! His friends disappear. Its clear from the mothers voice that she was quoting something her son had said to manipulate her. Drama erupted days after this commercial hit the air. The company was accused of promoting bullying. People claimed that the company was endorsing the idea that kids should be alienated for not

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FOREMOST

having the right apparel. I used to twist my offended by what you say, but just because parents arms in a similar way. I told them youre offended, that doesnt make you that if I didnt get the shoes, pants or shirt right. As an entertainer, Gervais takes the that I desired, I would be mocked openly by risk of offending people to get laughs and the entire school. It was dramatic stuff, and tell a story. As an outspoken atheist, he takes sometimes it even worked. As the father of the risk of offending people to get his point three small girls, I hate that anyone might across. Gervais says some offensive things, be shunned because of what they are or but his words regarding being offended arent wearing. My kids wear quite a few and being right are absolutely correct. Just hand-me-downs, like I did when I was a kid. because we are offended doesnt mean I certainly hope that doesnt expose them we are right. We need to fight through to bullying. I hate the idea of any kid being the offense and have real dialogue about bullied for any reason. The Bible teaches our issues. But it seems there is a new that all people are controversy every created in the image week. Someone is of God and should always offended about When we talk about the be treated with something and the things of God, we should be dignity as a result. political correctness When I first saw movement has created able to talk honestly about this commercial, I a marketplace in didnt view it as a which it is often what's right without having concerted effort to assumed that the to worry that, if someone promote bullying. I offended party is saw it as an attempt right. Even when is offended by the truth, it by a clothing those offended are retailer to sell pants. not right, protesters invalidates what we just said. I didnt expect can cause the offender such an uproar to back down. This concerning it, but happens locally and once it happened, I knew what to expect on the national stage. This atmosphere next. Predictably, the retailer promptly makes it difficult to say things that might be pulled the ad and issued an apology. Public deemed unpopular or offensive. It makes opinion actually seemed to be on their side, it difficult for the church to find its voice. but the customer is always right. In the Some take great pride in being offensive. marketplace, some loud complaints and a But there are others who welcome dialogue. little bit of controversy is enough to force Many churches desire to be a safe place change. Its not so important to determine where people can talk humbly and openly whether or not this commercial was about difficult things. In a politically offensive, but it does serve to illustrate how correct marketplace, it can be hard to enter easy it is to offend in our current market and dialogue without the fear of being offensive how the offended party can quickly force the or offended. offender to change. When we talk about the things of God, As actor and comedian Ricky Gervais puts we should be able to talk honestly about it, Some people are always going to be whats right without having to worry

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FEATURE
that, if someone is offended by the truth, it invalidates what we just said. We shouldnt be constantly faced with the threat of being hijacked by the assumption that someone is right just because they were offended. Otherwise, the truth of God may be stifled. In reality, the basic message of the Bible is offensive to us all in one way or another. This is easily demonstrated by one of the most well-known passages in the Bible: John 3:16. Jesus presents the beautiful message of a loving God Who wants to save people. If we take it one phrase at a time, it seems harmless enough. For God so loved the world...good... that he gave his only son...good... that whoever believes in him would not perish...good... but have everlasting life...good. Taken one piece at a time, this verse seems agreeable and not at all offensive. Its much like the episode of Friends where Rachel accidently combines the ingredients of a trifle and a shepherds pie. She ends up with a dessert that includes peas, onions and beef. Eaten all together, the flavor is offensive. Everyone hates it except Joey. Ross looks at Joey and quietly declares, It tastes like feet. Joey responds, Whats not to like? Custard, good. Jam, good. Meat, good. Only Joey can appreciate the good in each separate ingredient. When we take all of Jesus words and put them in context, they become offensive. Why did God give us His only son? He was to serve as a sacrifice for our sin. Jesus assumes that all human beings are sinners and need to pay for their sin. Thats offensive! Not only are we described as sinners, but we are also so completely messed up that we cant even save ourselves. We need someone else to do it. All the hard work and self-help books in the world cant help us to be good enough before God. We cant be more offended than that. Jesus assumes that all people not only die physically, but will also perish eternally. When we die we will either receive eternal life because of our

ARTIcLE

belief in Christ or face the judgment of God. If we werent offended before, we certainly are now! The core of the gospel can be truly offensive to those who will not accept it. What should be a glorious story of a God Who loves us enough to save us is perceived as offensive by millions of people who refuse to believe it. What we believe about God is so important. Rather than assuming we are right because we are offended, we need to pursue what is right even though we may be offended. The offended may simply need to lighten up. The offender may need to be more sensitive. Either way, we need safe places to enter into honest dialogue. By laying aside sensitive attitudes that are easily offended and by seasoning our words with grace and understanding, we can help create avenues of honest talk about the things of God. Jason Moore is a church-planting pastor with the Presbyterian Church in America. More than that, he is a child of God saved by His amazing grace. It is his hope that, come what may, God will use his life to display the love of God and make His goodness known.

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Press On
BY

WILL DOLE

HOW TO MORE
THAN

CONQUER
ThE

OPPOSITION
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he arrival of a critic is not a sign that you should stop, says humorist Jon Acuff, pointing out our prevailing tendency to flee opposition. Our default setting is to run from adversity, cowering in fear. If we set our minds on an endeavor, undertake a project, or espouse a view, mere criticism can usually shut us down. We often reason that if it were Gods will, it would be easy. Teachers who promise ease, peace and prosperity to those who have enough faith encourage this sort of fleshly thought pattern. It makes sense that, if opposition or difficulty indicates a lack faith, then we ought to avoid such treacherous roads. But this is not the perspective of Scripture. The Apostle Paul writes, But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me (1 Corinthians 16:8-9). Paul clearly saw opposition as a great opportunity, an open door. Rarely do we consider opposition a reason to stay the course. Perhaps if the opportunity is great enough, we might even stay put in spite of opposition. However, Paul didnt say he was remaining in Ephesus in spite of opposition. It seems that the mere presence of opposition may have actually been a motivating factor for Paul to stand firm. Perhaps opposition isnt necessarily a bad thing. Our natural tendency is to associate opposition with a closed door. Reading Pauls situation in Ephesus, we are reminded that Jesus told His disciples, If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town (Matthew 10:14). At first glance, this verse might lead us to believe that when we are presenting the gospel, we only need to continue as long as its being received. If there is rejection, we can immediately move on to a more receptive place. But would Jesus have instructed that His mission be left incomplete? It would make more sense in the light of other scriptures

that the disciples were to stay and finish saying what Jesus sent them to say, whether it was well received or not. Only after their work was complete and they finally left, shaking the dust from their feet signified the end of an opportunity for the towns people to respond to the message, placing the accountability squarely where it belonged. The disciples were to do everything possible to reason with a town, but there would be a time to move on, and when they did, the judgment would fall on those who would not respond. The disciples didnt have to carry the burden of the towns lack of response around on their shoulders. After faithfully completing their task in the face of opposition, the disciples could move on with a clear conscious, leaving the unbelief of the town behind along with the dust of the town. We are not accountable for how people respond to Gods message. We are, however, responsible for our own faithfulness. We may find ourselves in a Paul-like spot, called to a hostile place filled with tangible persecution, such as the one described in Acts 20:22-24, And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given methe task of testifying to the good news of Gods grace. In these situations it is important to know that persecution is not an anomaly or some unique experience. It may be part of Gods design for us. Yet most of us dont face that kind of persecution. In our posh, comfortable, 21st Century lifestyles, many of us do not even have the ability to truly comprehend what persecution would be like. We tend to think Christians are supposed to be loved, or at least well-liked, but we are called to live a life that may eventually cause us to be hated, not loved, persecuted, not liked. Jesus reminds us, If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I

have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you (John 15:18-19). Thats not exactly the way we want to advertise for church membership. But Jesus said that the world hated Him, and because He called us out of the world, were going to be hated, as well. Paul has a similar message in 2 Timothy 3:12, In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Its ironic that, although some see Jesus as the key to earthly peace and happiness, the Bible describes Him as a free ride to division and persecution. The reason we need to hear these words from Scripture is that we need to expect opposition. Claiming that an unborn human has a right to live is considered hate speech by our world today. Defining marriage solely as the union of one man to one woman is considered narrow-minded bigotry. Telling a little boy that he cannot use the girls restroom is now discrimination. This is our reality today. If we go further than basic moral principles and discuss such things as the exclusivity of Christ for salvation, the enemies will rise in number. These things impact all of us, not just vocational pastors. If we desire to work with our hands to earn a living, we may be pursuing something that a lazy, entertainmentworshipping culture cannot support. And if we want to make disciples of all nations, or even those next door, we will encounter resistance. But resistance is not a reason to abandon our cause. As we are told in Philippians 1:29, For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. We are also reminded in Romans 8:35 that this will not be our undoing. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. God has placed each of us in a unique situation to be used for His glory. We each have different people to impact, gifts to be used and issues on which we must make a stand in an opposing world. We must view this as our opportunity. The door for the gospel, though opposed, is wide open!

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Real Relationships

Guys Don't Ask for Directions

BY

SAm HARRIS

ne thing Ive discovered about young, Christian men is that we want to appear strong, capable and independent. We like to be able to do things on our own with confidence rather than depend on others to help us or complete us. Its why we have the comical stereotype of the guy not stopping to ask for directions when hes lost. These are not necessarily bad qualities, but if taken to extremes, they can become so. God wants us to be content in Him in our particular stage of life, single or not. But that contentment should not make us so overly confident or prideful that we ignore our basic, God-given need for human companionship while closing our hearts to others around us. My past relationship disappointments forced me to become more content in God and in myself without a girlfrienda good thingbut they also trapped me in a subtle way. I started to think that I was too good for a relationship. I felt so self-sufficient that I didnt feel the need for love or affection from anyone. I began to

feel superior to those who were experiencing the romantic desperation that I once had. At times I even grew angry and bitter, not at the girls who had hurt me in the past, but at our relationship-obsessed society as a whole, the media or even well-meaning friends and family who would tell me things like, You just need to find the right girl for you! I would respond inaudibly with something like, No! I dont need a girlfriend. Im perfectly fine on my own, and nobody out there is good enough for me anyway! I would sometimes shy away from girls who got too close to me or from friends who tried to nudge me closer to such dependent relationships. I had convinced myself that being single and satisfiedor maybe just being cynical against relationshipswas somehow better and nobler than seeking a loving relationship with a young lady. Worse than this, I tricked myself into thinking that I was in a good place in my life. Since I was no longer desperate for a relationship, I thought I had become more

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mature and closer to God. I felt morally justified in my militant anti-relationship stance. I didnt realize at the time that I had only traded one extreme for another. God wasnt pleased with my mindset any more than I was, although I had convinced myself that I was. I dont recall exactly when I had a major breakthrough shattering this crippling attitude, but it did happen. I still sometimes find myself falling into the pride of thinking I dont need anyone else. I have to readjust my thinking. Whatever gradual, yet positive, change that Ive seen has come from listening to the wise counsel of God and to wise friends who confirmed His truth about this issue. A few key verses and principles helped me reconsider my prideful position. For example, Genesis 2:18 says, It is not good that man should be alone. Although Pauls advice in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 still leads me to believe that some are called to a life of singleness, God created man with a need for companionship. This encompasses all aspects of relationships, including wives, close friends and fellow believers. None of us should think so highly of ourselves or our abilities that we become convinced that we can make it through life and serve Gods purposes in isolation without receiving needed support from others. Even though I believe romantic relationships are not essential, they are good things when they are centered on God. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 18:22 that He who finds a wife finds a good thing. Romance and marriage, in addition to other kinds of companionship, are part of Gods blessings on mankind. Even if were not involved or interested in this kind of relationship ourselves, we should not resent them or oppose them as I once did. Also, although contentment is a good thing, becoming content and confident in our own strength is a bad thing. The author of Proverbs 30:8-9 asks that he not be given riches, because they may cause him to forget about God. This monetary principle can be applied to the rest of life, as well. If we achieve everything we need, then why would we need God? Sometimes, we need to be kept in a place of need for things

like money or relationships, so we can be reminded to depend on God in every situation. We cant get by without human companionship. We need Gods presence in our lives even more, especially when we think we dont. Once weve realized these important truths, we can be more open to the possibility of a romantic relationship and to admitting our need for human companionship, even when we feel like we dont need anyone else. We can be more willing to give people a chance, risking the possibility of getting hurt again. We dont want to shut down from everyone or harden our hearts beyond repair. As with many things in life, we should strive for balance between the two extremes of desperation and isolation, between craving romance and pushing people away. Maintaining this balance is a constant work, but we can be more aware of the pitfalls to avoid. We should learn to become content in whatever relationship God has given us for now, romantic or not. Yet we should remain open to whomever God may bring in our lives and to whatever blessings He might choose to bestow on us, even if they go against our own radical notions of what we decide is best for our lives. He leads us to good and beneficial things, and He knows what those things are better than we do. Let us never be so presumptuous, so prideful and arrogant, as to think that we dont need Him or those with whom He has surrounded us.

Sam Harris is continuously striving to follow Jesus Christ more closely and to love others more fully. He is currently pursuing an M.A. in English at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he also works as a teaching assistant for English classes. He enjoys writing nonfiction accounts of his life experiences, as well as science-fiction and fantasy stories and the occasional poem. He would like to be a teacher, a writer, or a superhero when he grows up. You can find his blog at www.sirrahleumas. wordpress.com, or like Samuel N. Harris on Facebook. 9
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CAN YOU RELATE

In It, Faith for Heal ing Not of It


BY

ThOm MOLLOhAN

know a young man with a T-shirt that has a solid black background with a globe representing the world, drawn in silver-gray brush strokes. Beneath this image in bold white letters are the simple words, In it, not of it. From what I know of this guys life, it appears he believes what he wears. Ive never actually asked him what the message means, but I have a theory. I believe it encourages himself and others to take seriously Gods call to walk with Him and to avoid the path that the world suggests. The Scriptures are compelling as they warn us not to live according to the attitudes that are common to the cultures and societies around us. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2 ESV). Living a godly life simply means living a God-like life. We do not live according to the pace set by a secularized or pagan society that, by definition, is estranged from God. Paul tells us, For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:21 ESV).

Some might assume that godliness is the same as hard-core asceticism, but its not. Denial of self, so that Gods ways can be lived out through us, does not mean we become taskmasters of rules and laws. Living strictly by the law can set us up for pride and/or condemnation. We cannot live according to the rigorous and legalistic demands of a religion based on human righteousness because, as the Bible indicates in Isaiah 64:6, our righteousness is like filthy rags in contrast to Gods holiness. What we consider righteous is actually sinful degeneration compared to the perfect requirement of God. Neither does godliness permit us to live according to our sensual impulses. As we read in Romans, Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:5-6 ESV). So, living a godly life means that we come to know the mind and heart of God by prayerfully reading His Word and allowing His purposes to supplant

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the selfish things that dwell within us. Both pride and fleshly desire contend for supremacy in our lives. To live a godly life also means that we are less affected by what is pressure cooked into us from our culture than what is cultivated by Gods Spirit within us. All of this only happens when our lives are joined with like-minded believers who share in our walk with God through faith in Jesus Christ. What it means for us to be godly is that we walk closely with Him in whatever context He places us and that we consider his will for our lives when we make our daily choices. A pastor has no more genuine capacity for personal holiness than does a used car salesman good to know, especially for the used car salesman. A monk has no greater opportunity for living a life pleasing to God than does a carpenter, no matter how many times the carpenter hits his thumb with a hammer!

priority the living out of Gods Word in practical ways on a daily basis. If there is no real power in the lives of Christians, and the church seems to have little effect on the surrounding culture, it is because weve lost interest in living life on Gods terms. Lets get back on track. Lets make Gods ways our ways and discover that they really were the right ways all along!

Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio for the past 18 years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables: Classis Fairy Tales Pointing to Gods Love and Truth, Crimson Harvest and A Heart at Home with God. He is the pastor of Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at pastorthom@pathwaygallipolis.com.

A monk has no greater opportunity for living a life pleasing to God than does a carpenter, no matter how many times the carpenter hits his thumb with a hammer!
We are godly when we seek to give Him first place in all our plans. We are godly when we forgive others as He has forgiven us. We are godly when we give thought to the poor and needy around us, as well as the orphans and widows in our communities, as we become living extensions of His hands in this world. We are godly when our commitment to do the right thing prevails over the temptation to compromise by selling out in our business dealings. We are godly when we remember our promises and covenants, doing everything it takes to keep them. These efforts can range from returning our neighbors lawncare tools to keeping promises made to our children, from fulfilling a job contract to honoring the vows we make in our marriages. Godliness simply means to think thoughts, do things and generally live life on Gods terms. Its essential that we learn to do so. The churchs only hope of really pleasing God today is to make its top
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CORNEREd

BY

GRAcE
BY

ROB BEAmES

ORDINARY GREATNESS
pparently the Baby Boomers and Generation X need to make room for Generation Y, also called the Millennialsthose born from the early 80s to the turn of the millennium. They are believed to be extremely motivated to contribute to causes which have huge impacts on the social good, on their community and on society as a whole. Its difficult to criticize such commendable goals, but like any generation, Millennials are characterized by some negatives, too. Along with an increasing sense of entitlement and a proclivity toward narcissism, they have been attributed with a growing guilt trip, believing they are squandering their lives if they dont complete great missions in the name of Christ. Such causes and higher callings may cause some Christians to feel inadequate, sub-par or altogether lacking. Anthony Bradley, associate professor of theology and ethics at The Kings College in New York, wrote about what he calls the missional Christian, claiming it results from a new type of legalism in churches across America. He says, Todays

Millennial generation is being fed the message that if they dont do something extraordinary in this life they are wasting their gifts and potential.For too many Millennials their greatest fear in this life is being an ordinary person with a non-glamorous job, living in the suburbs, and having nothing spectacular to boast about. Are we really called to this kind of greatness? Speaking to Phillip, Jesus said, Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12). This verse sounds like we should be doing more amazing things than even the disciples did in the name of Christ, things like saving the lost, performing miracles and driving out demons. These are good things, but Jesus was not impressed by extraordinary missions. He warned, Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your

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name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! (Matthew 7: 21-23). These were evildoers, not for the great things they had done, but because they failed to enter into a relationship with Christ. In contrast to grand and astonishing deeds notice that these acts were not discreditedJesus says that only the person who does Gods will may enter the kingdom of God. So how do we do the will of God? Thats a big topic, but we know it is Gods will for us to trust in Christ alone for our salvation. Thats a big part of it, if not all of it. Jesus summed up the entire law of God with a couple short statements: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind...love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40). The Westminster Confession of Faith says our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Its not as complicated as it seems. The trouble is that we fail even in these requirements, leaving us with nothing to rely on but what Christ has already obtained for us. While on earth, Jesus did not focus on huge numbers or great spiritual feats, but on simple acts of kindness done to those who society may have considered insignificant. Jesus thought it noteworthy anytime someone welcomed one of His disciples, although they were unknown to the affluent of the time: And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward (Matthew 10:42). It was to the children and the seemingly insignificant that Jesus said to pay attention: Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest (Luke 9:48). Jesus taught us, not to aspire to great things, but to strive to become the least compared to everyone else. It seems that becoming ordinary and insignificant is the path to greatness. God may use us for remarkable, saintly accomplishments or to impact significant numbers of people with His grace,

Most of us don't need to do bigger and better things for Christ. Most of us simply need to do those things well, which we know God has asked us to do.

but our focus should be on those things often considered inconsequential to the world. Paul confirms this message from Jesus, Rather, in humility value others above yourselves (Philippians 2:3). As John the Baptizer put it while speaking of Jesus, He must become greater; I must become less (John 3:30). We should carry this same attitude of humility in our service to God and believe that our ordinary lives are great! Each time we give up lying on the couch in order to help someone, young or old, with a simple task, is that not great? Any time we give to others that which we could have kept for ourselves, is that not an amazing work of Gods Spirit? Every moment we deny ourselves and put the designs of others above our own, is that not a miracle? Are not the years of honest work, faithful friendship or loyal commitment to our companies, communities and church evidence of greater things than we could accomplish in our own weaknesses? Our ordinary responsibilities are great when they are done out of joy and thankfulness to our God. All of us live with a deep-set calling to greatness but then roll out of bed to address ordinary, daily struggles. While we should constantly aim to keep Gods kingdom first, its good to remember that we all have different, yet equally important roles to fulfill in that kingdom. One responsibility is no more approved or rewarded by God. It is our faithfulness to each of our individual callings, no matter how insignificant they may seem, which should remain our primary focus. Our challenge is to keep the guiltfor what we havent accomplished or for our failuresfrom rendering us unfaithful in what God has called us to do. Most of us dont need to do bigger and better things for Christ. Most of us simply need to do the things well that we know God has asked us to do. Although they are given to us by God, these missions can be considered common. They are routinely discounted and overlooked. They should not be! Because Christ is now with the Father, we have the power to complete each ordinary mission which His Spirit calls us to. In Him we can do great things by faith. (I believe He wanted me to remind you of this.)

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DESERT JOURNALS
BY

ChRIS MILLER

A Soldier's Treasure
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).

aul Tripp makes a statement in his book, Instruments in the Redeemers Hands, that Life is one big treasure hunt. He goes on to explain that we all seek the things we value most in our relationships and in the situations in our lives. When we think about this concept and what it reveals about our hearts, we have to admit its an incriminating truth. In Soldiers of God, Robert Kaplan tells about the large amount of time he spent with the Afghani Mujahidin in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. Along with covering some of the history of Afghanistan, its people and foreign invasions, Kaplan details much of the lives, character and general fiber of the people he

came in contact with as he reported on the war. He told of his travels with the Muj as they went to and from the field of battle. They lived simply in what we in the West would call extreme hardship. It was the norm for them. Reading about how people live in such harsh conditions with relative contentment makes one wonder why we seem to struggle so much among our many comforts. Does it seem that we are constantly seeking comfort? In Acts 14:22, Paul and Barnabas spoke from first-hand experience as they advised, We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. Of course, thats not the route we would willingly pick to get there. The perspectives of these two books collide to illuminate our hearts in a moment. These are not new points of view; they are well-

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known, but not quickly acknowledged. Deep down we really dont trust God as we should, probably because we want Him to provide what we want, rather than what we need. Perhaps this is because most of us desire things that God knows we dont really need. We may sometimes long to be kept safe as we pursue our own, selfish plans, even though they may conflict with Gods plan for us. Often we dont want to be with God as much as we want these plans to succeed. Kaplan also described the Muj as having a simple but total dependence on their god, without needing material comfort. They may have worshiped the wrong god, but they followed and trusted that god in ways that put many of us who claim Jesus as Savior to shame. If we would follow Christ like they followed their god, we could turn the world upside-down with the love of Christ. Most of us dont display such a strong faith, at least very often, but this is our calling. Jesus said, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23). We are to find our security in Him, not in the comfort offered by the world. When we realize we dont need the worlds comfort and are fulfilled by God, then we can love those around us without being concerned about what we may get out of it, since we already have all we need in God. What do we treasure most? Is it Gods presence and desire for our lives, or is there something else that we think we need? We know the answer when we examine our selfcentered goals. Why does it seem that our dreams and goals arent aligned with Gods very often? Why do we dream by default of earthly security? Perhaps we should ask more of these questions when we start to believe that God has failed to provide what we think we really need. Our desires are so easily swayed and turned to things that will

ultimately fail us. Yet God has never failed, nor has He failed us, but we do fail Him regularly. Because we have failed in our sin to live up to Gods standard, Jesus came and lived a perfect life on our behalf. Jesus took the penalty required for our sin and gave us the benefits of His perfect life. No, Gods love will never fail us, even when we fail to pursue His provisions, His comfort and His plans for our lives. How could we treasure anything above Him in light of such a great love? What should a soldier of God treasure most? Jesus is asking us to give up our worldly dreams for the plans He has for us. Some of those plans may fulfill our dreams. Others may not. We are not omniscient, so when we rely on our own understanding we can get lost in the world. We think we see, but on many levels we are blind. We seek our own joy, pleasure, glory, etc., but in reality this is a death-wish we cannot endure. What He has designed for us in the end is so much better than all that we see now, but we settle for so much less. Dont settle for less than Jesus has planned for us! Chris Miller is a retired marine who used journaling to help strengthen his faith during overseas active duty military service. By Gods grace, he hopes these thoughts and references will help others get through the desert times in their lives. He is a devoted husband, loving father of eight and is currently preparing for a full-time role in ministry.

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SPIRITUAL BRAWN

BY

PUSHERS GET PUSHED F


StEVE BRAUN
or those of us who grew up with siblings, especially brothers, the occasional altercation was inevitable. When conflict occurred, it was common to hear someone cry out in defense, He pushed me first! A lecture often followed about how it didnt matter who started it. I may have even been accompanied by the reminder that pushers always get pushed. Perhaps youve heard it said that what goes around comes around, but either way, most of us understand that when we incite trouble with others, especially physically, wed better be prepared to handle what weve dished out to others. verses later we read the Golden Rule, So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12). In our sinfulness, we like to push people around, but it may be surprising to learn that God is the biggest pusher of them all. God doesnt push anyone toward evil, as we often do, but He does push us into His good will. We may have even heard testimonies from others describing their salvation as the moment in which Christ dragged them kicking and screaming into the kingdom of God. This isnt to suggest that God forces salvation on anyone, but He does save even those who may be actively pushing against the gospel without any hope. In fact, thats the way we all were, even if we havent realized it yet. None of us can be saved until God in His grace changes our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh

Meditating on various passages of Scripture, we easily discover a connection between these proverbs and reality. The Bible repeatedly reminds us that there are real consequences to our actions. For example, the Sermon on the Mount reminds us, Do not judge, or you too will be judged (Matthew 7:1), and a few

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through the saving work of Christ applied through His Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27). What a great mercy it is when God pushes the hardness of our hearts away with His great grace in Jesus Christ! We know that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and this emphasizes that we can neither save ourselves nor push our way into the kingdom of Godno matter how hard we try. We sometimes marvel at how quickly the Pharisees pushed against this essential truth or why anyone would oppose the gospel of grace that Jesus Christ proclaimed during His earthly ministry, especially when Scripture warns against pushing our agenda over Gods will. But are hearts have the same dangerous bent. The disobedience in the Garden was not only the first sin of mankind, it was a statement that our own will was more important than Gods plan for us. Its like we said to God through Adam and Eve, Excuse me, but we know better than you! Instead of following one perfect law from God to live life to the fullest, we leave ourselves to die the death that comes through not being able to live up to a thousand expectations. We may think we would have done better than the first couple, but our daily stubbornness and selfishness prove otherwise. It seems no one agrees with each other; no one is satisfied ever!

God. We all have had moments in our lives when we turned tail and ran away from Gods clear calling. It may not have been a call to vocational ministry such as it was for Jonah. It can be as subtle as a tug on our hearts to meet with a friend who needs help after the loss of a loved one. Many of the things God may ask us to do may not show up on the radar of the spectacular, but there are a lot of messy situations which beg us to administer the gospel of love to others. How many times do we chose to exchange a God-given task for the blissful numbness of comfort, abundance or apathy? Yet even when we fail in these ways, Christs death still is being applied to us daily as we repent before God. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Thankfully, Gods grace does not stop pushing even after our salvation. In a sense, believers feel His pushing more acutely since our bodies have been transformed into temples of the Holy Spirit and we can now discern spiritual matters.

Pushers always get pushed. Considering the good plans God has for us and His loving desire that, as Hebrews 12:10 says, we might share in His holiness, getting pushed isnt ultimately a bad thing. As believers, if we push, let us push away our own selfish tendencies, our desires to avoid being taken behind the divine woodshed for the loving, It doesnt seem like we learn very quickly painful, discipline of our Father (Proverbs either. Even as we continue to grow and 3:12). Let us push toward the heavenly mature in Christ, we still seem to push against Gods will in our lives. There are many summons of God to mold us into the image of Christ Jesus, and let us no longer push examples in Scripture of believers pushing against Gods passionate desire for us to against God, but God always presses them do good works which He has prepared in back toward repentance. Consider Jonah advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). the prophet and his rebellion against Gods mission for him to the Assyrians in the Steve Braun resides in St. Charles, MO and is capital city of Nineveh. We are often guilty of a husband, father, property repairman and thinking that we would never go against God pastoral candidate who seeks to encourage in such bold and ridiculous ways as Jonah believers to grow in the grace and knowledge did. What arrogance on our part! A healthy spiritual life regularly examines itself through of Jesus Christ. the reflections shown to us in the Word of

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Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide


Psalm 139 (how I would say it)
To: Music Director From: David Memo: Heres something you can set to music.
Master and Ruler, you have thoroughly examined me and you know me. You know every time I sit down and every time I get up; despite the distance that separates us, youre able to read my mind. You know when Im going out and when Im turning in; you know me inside and out. Before a word leaves my mouth, you know what I am going to say. Its like Im in a cage and youre holding me in the palm of your hand. Such intimacy blows my mindtheres no way I could ever know someone so well. Is there anywhere I can go away from you? Is it possible to escape you? If I were to go into deep space, youd be there. If I could camp out on the ocean floor, youd be there. If I could surf the early morning horizon or float along the where the ocean meets the sky, even there your hand would be guiding me, holding on to me tightly. I might say, When it gets dark, Ill be able to hide, but there no such thing as darkness to you. To you, even night looks like day and darkness like light. You see, you created my inner core; you knit me like a sweater when I was in my mothers womb. I am amazed by how you made meits too awesome and incredible! I have no doubt that everything you do is astonishing. You could see right through to my skeleton when I was being formed in God knows where when I was being woven together in the womb of the earth. You saw me when I was just a shapeless blob of cells, and you wrote in your book the story of every day I have been destined to live, before I lived even the first one. I cant tell you how much I value your thoughts, God. Their sum equals infinity! If it were possible to count them, it would be like me setting out to count the grains of sand on every beach in the world. I wake up every morning, and I am still with you. Theres just one thing, God. Its these evil, bloodthirsty men. I wish youd mop the floor with them! They always mouthing off about you and disrespecting you. Master and Ruler, dont I hate anyone who hates you, and loathe everyone participating in the rebellion against you? All I feel for them is hatred, and I consider them my enemies.

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Examine me through and through, God, prod and probe and dig into my anxieties. Let me know what you find that doesnt please you, and guide me along the way to eternal life.

Read More Scripture (how I would say it)