Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Focusing on God in the Ups and Downs of Life

The sermon I heard last Sunday was on James 5:13-20, but focused especially on James 5:13, which says:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.

Basically, when we have downs in life, instead of falling into self-pity, we need to pray.  When we have ups in life, instead of becoming self-absorbed or possessed by possessions, we need to praise God and give Him the glory.

This is very simple, yet so comprehensive. I knew about this verse earlier, but was greatly impacted by it this week. God's word really is powerful!

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  (Hebrews 4:12)

Keep a Christ-centered life and you'll keep the right perspective!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Back to Blogger!

Hi, after leaving Blogger for Word Press I've come back.

I switched back because Word Press allows more flexibility in design, but I don't use it.  Blogger is free and it is much easier to keep track of other people's blogs with it.

In the future I hope to keep active in the blogging world.

God bless,

Edit: Despite setting the publishing dates in the past, all the posts I just moved here are showing up in my reading list.  Sorry about this.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Halftime! (Almost)

---First published on stephen-blog.com when I used that site---

Yesterday and today I was thinking about this blog post.  I planned to review my goals from the beginning of 2014 and plan for the remainder of it. And then it hit me!  5 minutes before writing this the realization came that 2014 is not halfway done.  So it looks as if I just gained a whole month! :D To see what I published a little after the start of this year, click here, or simply scroll down two posts. The last few days have been the most painful of my life, but I've also experienced some of the greatest blessings and fastest growth I have ever had.  It's a good time to reflect on life, priorities, and plans.  Thanks God! To anyone going through hard times I recommend 3 things:
  1. Use the pressure to propel yourself closer to God.  Obey, praise, and trust Him no matter how hard.  This is not easy to do, but I'm 100% confident that God will reward you if you do.
  2. Talk to other believers.  The other day I was really struggling.  It felt like the world was some type of sick matrix experiment seeing how much I could take.  However, after talking to a pastor I was resolved to do my duty and trust God.  The body of Christ is very important and lately my appreciation for it has grown hugely (a blessing from hard times)
  3. Don't brace.  Relax in God.  He is sovereign (this has been brought out numerous times recently).  Bracing is a natural reaction to bad situations, but it doesn't help.  Last week (after some peer pressure ;-) ) I went on my first upside down roller coaster.  Later I rode on a wooden coaster that was quite bumpy.  I discovered that when relaxed it was much more enjoyable for me than when I was tense.  The same is true in life.  Worrying about the future wont help anything.  In fact, it's commanded against in scripture (Philippians 4:6-7, Matthew 6:25-34).  Trust God!
That's a somewhat long introduction, but it gives the context for this post.   My goals reviewed:
  • Grow closer to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He has drawn me much closer to Him.  May He give me grace to always respond when He calls out to me.
  • Quickly bounce back from any and all setbacks.  Pride is something I have to watch out for when saying this, but I honestly think this is an area I've shown strength in.  All glory to God! :)
  • Be more self-controlled, especially in following schedules and resolutions of mine.  I've grown a ton in this area, but still have a lot of room to grow.
  • Do very well in the last few months of high school.  I'm very thankful that this year of school has been my favorite.  Last week I thought I had 3 more weeks before finishing, and I still think this, but we'll see how it goes.  Man makes plans.  God controls.
  • Seek God’s direction for my life after high school.  For sure I need to continue to do this.  He's blessed me, but I think I need to devote more time to this.
  • Have more faith and trust in God.  Right now my faith is at a high.  It's critical to make sure it stays that way.
  • Take action on things I believe.  When I copied this I first thought along the lines of 'I've been quite busy with school, so you know, yeah...' but that would kind of be a lame excuse.  Another area to keep working on!
  • Give more of my time, energy, and money to God’s kingdom.  I have given more than before, but I can improve.  My default for when I have free time has often been to go towards chess or computer games, but my priorities were wrong.  There is nothing wrong with those things, but the Christian's focus must be God's kingdom.  I especially feel compassion for those who cannot help themselves, so that is probably where I'll try to give my time/money.
  • Be financially well off by the end of the year.  Hehe.. :P  Not quite.  I do think it's a legitimate excuse that most of my time has been occupied by school.  Finances are something I've studied, and I'm quite confident that I can do well, but the main thing is I must take action!
So I evaluate myself as doing well overall, but I must not let that make me passive.   Here are some new things I plan on doing:
  • Grow more mature.  I want to progress in life.  The thing important to realize is that it's today where you grow, not tomorrow or next year.  I'm 18 and I need to be ready for the rest of my life.  Though all of life is learning, the primary training grounds are almost up.  Thankfully I've been blessed with spectacular parents, so I have something of a head start.
  • Be more joyful. :D Right now is the perfect opportunity to practice.
  • Be more patient.  Waiting for big things is sometimes hard for me, sometimes not, but it often gets to me to have to wait for small things if I don't see why there is the need to wait.  Kind of silly :P
  • Stay active; not get passive.  Especially when life is easy and God's blessings are the only thing coming my way.  Do I want to have it that the only way for God to make me move is bring troubles my way?  No!  I'd much rather force myself to get out of and expand my comfort zone even when life seems easy.
  • Keep and grow vibrant relationships with friends and family.  Material things and fun are gifts of God, but you cannot take your stuff to with you through death (though you can store up treasures in Heaven).  You can, however, build relationships with God and people that will last forever.  I need to make sure I am consistent in taking time to read God's word and pray.  People are also important, much more important than any thing.  I need to make sure I show this in my relationships with people.
  Life is an adventure.  Keep smiling :D