Saturday, September 9, 2017

ten lessons learned

Exactly a week ago, I did something crazy. Well, not that crazy. But definitely out of my comfort zone. I hiked all the way up to Lone Pine Lake, which, mind you, is 5 MILES total- 2.5 of it slightly uphill. (Still don’t know how I did it! LOL) Ever since I was a little girl, my dad has always taught us that we can learn lessons from every experience, every situation, everything. So my siblings and I grew up with A LOT of metaphors. It’s pretty natural for me by now to do the same! So without further ado, here are some things I learned from a 5-mile hike, spiritually speaking…

#1: This hike is a lot like our spiritual walk with God.
“Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:14)
The way to Lone Pine Lake was not an easy one, nor is it for the faint of heart. It is a very narrow path, with steps going up, and challenges every now and then. 

#2: Set your eyes on the Prize.
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 3:14)
Whenever I started getting tired, I’d think of the majestic Lake we would very soon see. It’s the same in our walks-we must keep our eyes on the Prize-Jesus Christ Himself. One day we will see Him as He is and we will be like Him! Can’t wait! 

#3: Community is so important.
There was a good group of us that went up, some dear friends and family. It was just so encouraging to hike together and to keep moving forward. There was a span of about 5-10 minutes where a couple of my friends and I took a small break and got separated from the group. They were completely out of sight as we hiked up…it just felt so lonely. Once we caught glimpse of them waiting for us up ahead, it’s like we got a surge of energy! It’s easier to walk when you’ve got community to walk alongside you. We weren’t meant to walk all alone. Find yourself some friends who will spur you on to love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)  
Which brings up my next point!

#4: Take time to be refreshed.
I don’t know if this will make sense, but I’ll say it anyway! Every now and then, we would all get together under some shade and take a break. It wasn’t a long time, but we’d get a chance to fellowship, drink water, share snacks, or just simply catch our breath. In our walk, we have the privilege of coming together with believers at church to be spiritually refreshed- worship, listen to the Word, pray, and fellowship. It’s important!
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

#5: If you stumble, GET BACK UP.
If you know me, then you also know I’m a little clumsy bhrvbdfhs. So you can bet there were a lot of times where I’d stumble over a rock, a step uphill, or even on my own two feet. Our walk with God isn’t always a smooth and perfect path. We all fail God daily. Maybe you woke up too late and missed your quiet time with the Lord. Or you lost your temper with a family member. Or _______________ (you fill in the blank). When you stumble, don’t wallow in self-pity. Get back up, stand straight, and keep marching ahead. Ask the Lord to help you and give you strength. There will be a lot of trials, but you must keep going.
“…A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.” (Prov. 24:16)

#6: Encouragement is a HUGE blessing.
You have no idea how encouraging it was to hear someone on the trail say “keep going!” “we’re almost there!” “just 15 minutes and we’ll reach the lake” or “it’ll be worth it!”. Don’t underestimate the power of your words to fill others with hope, strength, and perseverance. Once we reached the lake and were on our way down, I tried to make an effort to encourage the tired hikers making their way up. You should’ve seen how their countenances would change to a smile and they’d say “THANK YOU!”
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thess. 5:11

#7: Our Lord Jesus helps us carry our burdens.
Halfway through the hike, some of the young men volunteered to carry bags. One of my little cousins was kind enough to carry my backpack. As soon as he took it and we continued hiking, wow what a difference it made! I had never realized how it felt being tired and that burden being carried for me.
 “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

#8: Don’t carry up any extra baggage.
Before we started our hike, everyone made sure that they were carrying the bare necessities. Even a water bottle could weigh one down. I can only imagine how hard it would be for someone to hike all those miles carrying a suitcase full of things they didn’t need. When we come to Christ, we need to get rid of all the baggage we can and ask Him to help us. Maybe that means forgiving someone who has hurt you, confessing hidden sins, or letting God have your past. Whatever it takes, get rid of all that spiritual baggage!
“Therefore, seeing we also are compassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”  (Hebrews 12:1)

#9: Help each other.
On the way down, one of the young men in our group hurt his ankle. It was incredible to see the teamwork done to help in the moment. Someone found some sticks to use as a splint. Another person had an extra t-shirt to tie around his foot. Someone had a safety pin to hold together. His friends were able to help him all the way down, since he couldn’t put a lot of weight on his foot.

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness… Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:1-2)

#10: The view was TOTALLY worth it!
The soreness in my muscles, every pain or difficulty to get there no longer mattered the moment I saw the lake. It was so beautiful. I was towards the back of the group, so I was able to take a moment to stop and just worship the Creator. It was such a special experience. The Day that we arrive to be with the Lord…every tear will be wiped away and every difficulty we ever had will diminish in comparison to the JOY we will feel in His presence.
 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new…
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”
(Revelations 21:4-5 +7)

Have a blessed week you guys! -Jas

Friday, May 12, 2017

What's happening???

Greetings to all my brothers and sisters in the faith! I give all honor and glory to my God who has sustained me to this day! I know that if it were up to just me, I would have nothing to say…but the Lord is so good and I asked Him to be the one who will speak through me in any way He wants. Because even if I were to say the most beautiful words a human can hear and speak with eloquence, and grace, but if the Lord isn’t the one speaking, it’s all in vain, and it would be nothing more than meaningless noise. (I Corinthians 13:1)
I don’t want these to be my words, but His.

A couple months ago, I was with some friends, thinking of different youth we knew who had strayed from God. Our hearts were heavy as we prayed for each one we could think of, one by one, the list getting longer & longer. I was saddened to think of so many people that have left the church, left the faith that they were brought up with…some, being youth that were, as they say, “brought up in the pews”. I had the sudden realization that it could’ve easily been me on that list too. I don’t deserve to still be standing. There’s NOTHING that I’ve done on my own to merit God’s grace and mercy. If I’m still here, it’s only because of Him.

This all got me thinking…how on earth were so many young people (and even older adults) leaving behind such a precious faith? Surely most of them had experienced that First Love. Surely some of them had even promised the Lord, like Peter, that they would always love Him, always follow Him, even unto death. (Luke 22:33) What was it that eventually made all these people careless in their walks, even to the point of not going to church…or to leaving their First Love?
It all boils down to one thing: self-control, or the lack thereof. In the original Greek, the word for self-control is: sṓphrōn . This word translates to “sound mind”: discipline, knowing how to deny your fleshly desires, thinking straight, etc.
 Let me explain…

Spiritual death usually doesn’t happen all at once & overnight, but gradually, and subtily! One compromise at a time. It happens when one gets carried away with the things of this world.
We compromise things that don’t seem like a big deal. Instead of having all areas of our lives governed by the Holy Spirit, we lose sṓphrōn, self control.
 “Small” sins start to creep in, and after a while, it’s all normal. But the scary thing is…it’s not always the big sins that separate us from God, most of the time it’s small things. Common things turned into idols. And by idols, I don’t mean little gold statues; I mean idols of the heart. Anything that takes God’s place in your life, consumes your thoughts, and you devote all your attention and energy to, can become an idol. "Little"sins.
It can be pride. It can be music that isn’t exactly “bad”, but deep inside you know it doesn’t glorify God. Or it can be that “harmless” show, that has an occasional bad word or crude joke, or inappropriate scene. The social media you spend most of your day on. It can be gossip. Or those friendships that you know are not building you up spiritually. (1 Corinthians 15:33)
It can even be “good things”. Maybe you spend so much time at work that you’re too tired for church. Or providing becomes such a priority, that money is all you can think about. Perhaps school and your future career are your MAIN focus right now, that God just gets the leftovers of your mind. Or you’re so busy serving, that you’ve forgotten Who it is you’re serving.
Maybe it’s a sports team you love. Suddenly, you can’t think of anything else. Sports take over your mind and over every conversation.

Often times, what starts out as a small lack of self-control turns into a bigger problem later on. It doesn’t matter if we think we’ve got it under control, or if we justify ourselves by saying “just one last time”. Our enemy is constantly throwing things to separate us from the Lord. He can use unforgiveness, bitterness or resentment, and gossip so you can’t experience true fellowship with your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Or he sends you thoughts that you carelessly stop filtering with God’s Word. Or he tempts you with pornography, things you know you shouldn’t be looking at. I’ve heard a saying that says something along the lines of… “even a crack is an opportunity for the enemy to come in”.
Guard your heart! (Proverbs 4:23) If you see any sign of satan trying to sneak into your heart, thoughts, or actions, God has given you the power you need to put a stop to it. (There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
1 Corinthians 10:13) If you have been playing with fire, young man, young woman, please flee while you still can!!! The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is stronger than any stronghold, chain, or bad habit! There can be freedom! You can once again experience intimacy with Him.
Come before His presence with genuine repentance, and confess it. It also helps to talk to an older godly person about it and ask for prayers. Then you must let the Lord renew your mind, let Him put His mind in you. (Romans 12:2) And strive to honor the Lord with all your future choices, asking Him for help to not repeat the sin. (John 8:11) And do anything you can to get rid of it. (Matthew 5:29) Keep a sound mind.

[Something that helps keep a sound mind that’s focused on God, is a resolution I made to myself. It’s not always easy, but every morning I make the effort to reach for my Bible before my phone. It helps to hear what God is speaking to me more clearly. Otherwise, I’d have a distracted mind, trying to think of my to-do list, emails/messages I need to reply to, responsibilities, etc.}

With any choice you make, any entertainment choice, social media, thoughts, and even words- you can ask yourself…’would the Lord approve? Does this glorify Him?’
If you hesitate to answer, you know your answer.

With God’s help, you can replace any bad habits with good ones:
If you’re tempted to:

-See something ungodly- Stop what you’re doing and pray for strength to overcome.
-Listen to worldly music- Put on some worship music.
-Gossip- Pray for that person instead.
-Waste time on social media- Listen to a preaching or Christian podcast.
-Think worldly things- Meditate on a Scripture.
-Complain- Write things you’re grateful for. (Psalm 103: 2)

And the list goes on and on!

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:25

Young people, adults, everyone! The Lord’s coming is so near, it’s not time to be messing around and only going to church when we “feel like it”.
Let’s be diligent, and be there with all our hearts, to encourage & be encouraged!
I love you all with the Love of Christ,

Sis. Jasmine Luna
1 Timothy 4:12-13