Tag Archive | Devotional

Fear The Right Things

Author: Kyle Yarborough

I struggle with anxiety. At times, it can be severe. It can be debilitating and I can feel trapped or chained to a chair, unable to move. It can bring on nausea and headaches and it can cloud my judgement and thinking. It is also relatively common. About 40 million people are directly affected by anxiety each year in the US. That’s roughly 18% of the population. Less than a third seek out or receive treatment. Anxiety is yet another effect of sin in our world. For me, this struggle is a constant exercise in obedience and faith that my Father has my best interests at heart and that He is using my difficulties and trials to sanctify me.

Matthew 6:26-27 says “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” This is a daily reminder that worrying about moving halfway across the country, pursuing a new job, pouring into a new relationship, and all the other upcoming life changes cannot alter the path that He has determined for me. It is not mine to control. Believing that is difficult, but it brings a peace that only He can provide. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the patterns of this world and to start believing that success is determined by a number in your bank account, by the clothes you wear, or the car you drive.

David wrote in Psalm 27:1 that “the Lord is my light and my salvation — whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?” More like, what then shall I fear; of what shall I be afraid? If I am not in control, then it does me no good to spend time fretting. This does not mean, “Don’t act.” It’s actually the opposite. Act in faith knowing that the Lord will guide you in his purposes, not allowing your heart and mind to be consumed by the temptations constantly before you. He is faithful to provide for those who live according to his word.

In 1932, just before the height of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said in his first inaugural address that the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He sought to embolden his people for what lay ahead and give them the confidence to face difficulty. It would be a trying time but eventually industrial production rose to levels higher than before. The jobs returned but the people’s fears turned from employment to the conflict at hand, World War II.

A lot of our daily worries tend to be about things with very little long-term significance. That’s not to say there aren’t significant things to worry about in life, but each of these is an opportunity to lay our concerns at Jesus’ feet. In Mark 4:35-41 we see the disciples afraid for their lives as their ship struggles to navigate a heavy storm. Jesus, however, was asleep in the stern. Frantically, they woke him and asked, “Teacher, do you not care if we drown?” He rose from where he slept and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” and the storm dispersed. He then asked his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”, and they were terrified, asking each other “Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!” Our prayer should then be “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

Too often, we carry irrational fears of things out of our control. We will always be able to find something to be fearful about. The Lord freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt but we struggle to trust him to provide for some of our most basic needs. There is little doubt that the onset of World War II struck fear and uncertainty in the hearts of the American People. So is fear truly something to fear? It is, but only when we fear the wrong things. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” My takeaway? Fear the right things. Fear of my circumstances gets me nowhere. To fear God is to desire to live in harmony with His righteous standards and to honor him through my actions. There is peace and sanctification in that.

Like the disciples, when we see Christ display His power over our circumstances, we fear them less, and we learn to fear Him more.

It Is Right To Think About Death

Author: Jared Lyda

The past month, for whatever reason, has brought death into the forefront of my Facebook and Twitter feeds and therefore my mind. The airport bombings in Brussels were about a month ago. There was an earthquake in Ecuador that killed over 500 people. 8 people died recently in the floods in Houston, TX. Aggie Muster, a ceremony that happens every year at Texas A&M to honor the lives of fallen Aggies, was Thursday night, April 21. One of the Aggies honored this year was Major Shawn Campbell, Texas A&M BYX Alumnus 2001. A junior on the drumline of my high school alma mater died a few days ago. An Oklahoma State BYX founder was killed in a Tulsa apartment fire within the last few weeks. Merle Haggard died about two weeks ago. Prince died last Thursday. And the list goes on.

We tend to behave in one of two ways when it comes to death — obsession or denial. Neither is helpful. Death is coming for everyone. So how does the Christian think about death? Why does the Christian think about death?

Death is not something people in their twenties like to think about. No one that young thinks they’re going to die soon. Death is something that we push out of our minds. Every now and then a celebrity dies and we start to think about death only to quickly push it out of our minds again. But let’s take a moment and not run to Netflix or Xbox or social media or friends and consider death.

Why should we think about death? Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” The Bible says your life is a mist. You are here for a little time and then you vanish (James 4:14). Carrie Underwood sings about how this is our temporary home. This is just a stop on the way to where we’re going. Death is coming. It is universal. And it’s coming for everyone. No one is exempt.

Let’s not try to pretend that death isn’t sad or scary — it certainly is. It is right to be sad, it is right to mourn and to weep. But just like everything else in life the Christian has unshakable hope in life’s scariest and strangest times. For the Christian, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). When we die we get to be in the presence of our God for eternity. My mind doesn’t really have categories to understand the idea of eternity. Don’t read that sentence quickly and move on. We get to be in the presence of our God for eternity. Our hope is in Christ and being with him forever.

“We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

—2 Corinthians 4:18-5:1

We know how the story ends. In the end we win. We look forward to the day when He will wipe away every tear, when death will be no more, when mourning, crying, and pain cease, when the former things have passed away, and when God makes all things new (Revelation 21:4-5). The Christian understands what caused Paul to write, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

You’ve probably been asked, “How would you live your life today if you knew you were going to die tomorrow?” It sparks some interesting thoughts and a lot of fleeting motivation to change your behavior that typically fades within a few hours, but that’s not very helpful. And most likely you won’t die tomorrow.

I’m not interested in asking myself questions that will get me super motivated for an hour or two and then let me go back to what I was doing before. I’m interested in life-changing questions. I’m interested in life-changing sentences and paragraphs. I’m interested in thinking deeply about things that will change my perspective forever, things that will shape my worldview, and things that will alter how I live. I’m not interested in obsessing over death. But I am interested in allowing the fact that it’s coming to shape the way that I interact with those around me.

I want to remember how small I am compared to a big God.

I want to remember how fragile I am compared to a God who is our refuge and strength (Psalm 46).

I want to remember how limited my scope is compared to a God whose judgments are unsearchable and whose ways are inscrutable (Romans 11:33).

I want to remember how weak I am compared to an omnipotent God who does what he pleases (Psalm 115:3).

I want to remember how short my life and legacy is compared to a God whose name will be remembered throughout all generations (Psalm 102:12).

I want to remember these things and have them stir up worship in my soul. It is right to think on death because its reminder to us that we are small and fragile fuels our worship of a God who is eternal and all-powerful.

For now death does sting, death is sad, losing loved ones is painful. We cry. We mourn. We hurt. But we are not hopeless. We have a hope that is unfading and a joy that never ends. We serve an almighty God. Through him death is defeated.

 


Jared Lyda is the National Advisor for the Texas State, Kansas, Ole Miss, and Tulsa BYX chapters. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 2015 with a degree in Leadership and Development. He currently lives in Fort Worth, TX.


 

Messy Houses and Hearts

Author: Dean Tzobanakis

As many of you know, I am recently married to a stunning young lady. Before Kelsey and I got married, there was much abrew in her head about what it would be like to live with a boy. And who could blame her? She knew that the standard, in general, was abysmally low for the male living space. Despite my efforts to prove to her that my space was neat and organized whether I knew she was coming over or not, still she worried. Conversely, I was celebrating the prospect of having a roommate of the opposite sex. Ladies tend to be tidier and smell much better than dudes. After six months of marriage, I think I may have finally convinced her that I’m at least in the same conference of cleanliness as she is.

I work with college men. More often than not, they fall more into Division III territory (that means they aren’t exactly earning a scholarship for their cleanliness, for you non-sporty types.) And let’s go ahead and lump in young men in general, because graduating from college doesn’t always seem to remedy the problem. Now, my favorite thing about college ministry is that I can treat my audience like adults. Because they are, whether they act like it or not.

You see, the word “boy” in the opening paragraph is key. One would expect a boy’s room to have toys, clothes and dirty dishes strewn about. It’s simply the manifestation of a lack of maturity (and the law of entropy.) Therefore, it would be fair for Kelsey to worry about the state of her home if she were required to share space with a boy. That’s logical. The problem comes when these “boys” are age 16 and beyond.

The state of your dwelling, believe it or not, is a reflection of your character. In 1 Timothy 3, the Bible says that if a man cannot lead his family well, there’s no way he can be an effective leader in the Church. Likewise, an unkept house or apartment speaks volumes about the overall discipline (or laziness) of the resident. A few things that require discipline: relationship with God and spiritual growth, budget, eating and exercise habits, upkeep of residence, time management and productivity, intentionality in interpersonal relationships, etc.

Discipline in one area flows into others. It’s likewise almost impossible to restrict apathy and sloth to only certain areas of life. The destructiveness of laziness cannot be overstated, and it is proportionately beneficial to be disciplined in everything. Colossians 3:23-4 states:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Put another way, “diligence is excellence over time.” Pursue excellence in all things, and do it consistently.

Finally, as not to neglect the specific impact on BYX men, consider this: The burden that this lack of diligence and consideration places on the brothers around you can breed bitterness and dissension. If trying to maintain a clean home becomes a source of strife among roommates, then that in itself compromises our purpose of brotherhood and unity. Anything that does this, especially something so childish, should be handled swiftly with respectful dialogue and plenty of humility. I encounter this issue at nearly every campus I visit. That indicates that it’s far too common among men who should be striving to sacrificially love one another and pursue excellence for the glory of Jesus Christ.

In the grand scheme of things, domestic tidiness is only a microcosm of a culture that prolongs adolescence and, in so doing, perpetuates a cancerous, childish mentality in men that’s detrimental to ministry and society. But maybe that’s a topic for another devo.

Friday Devotional: Born with a heart that beats out of rhythm.

Author: Jason Hoyt

A good friend of mine was recently diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. A-fib, as it is commonly known, is an irregular and often rapidly increasing heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow throughout the body. During atrial fibrillation, the heart’s two upper chambers beat chaotically, irregularly and out of coordination with the lower two chambers. If left untreated, the risk for a blood clot increases, which could cause serious issues that could lead to death.

The treatment plans for a-fib are several. They include electrical cardioversion, cardioversion with drugs, catheter ablation, surgical maze procedure, atrioventricular node ablation. I will spare you the details of each of these procedures, but the heart is very clearly an important part of our body. When someone you know has a heart condition, you become keenly aware of just how important this muscle is to life. If there is a heart problem, it affects every area of your life.

From a spiritual standpoint, every one of us has a heart problem. In Genesis 3, when Eve chose her own heart’s pleasure over the command of God’s and then did the same for her husband Adam, sin was birthed into this world and dramatically altered the rhythm of life. A heart issue was born into them and into every person born since that time. Our hearts are out of rhythm with the natural God-designed flow and function of life.

One of my favorite Bible stories is found in John 3 with the story of Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee who came to Jesus in the night to ask some heart questions. He acknowledged that no one not from God could perform the miracles that Jesus has performed. Jesus responds in verse 3 by saying, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus proceeds to ask more questions about how one can be born again if he is fully grown? Can one enter his mother’s womb and be born once again? Jesus responds, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Ezekiel 36:26-27 shows us what happens when the Lord transforms the heart.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you: and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”

What Nicodemus didn’t understand is that this wasn’t a physical rebirth. It was a spiritual birth of the heart. Believing in Christ is the rebirth. God would spiritually transform the heart of Nicodemus so that he would be sensitive to the things of God. His heart’s desires would be transformed and that would lead to his physical actions being transformed as well.

In many ways, all of our hearts suffer from atrial fibrillation. All of our hearts beat irregularly and are out of sync with how God designed the rhythm of our lives to be. Our hearts desires lead us to make decisions in life that can and do affect the direction of our life. Those decisions are either going to be out of rhythm with what God desires for our life or they will be in rhythm for how God designed our life. Our hearts are clearly prone to be out of rhythm. The only remedy for the spiritual setting of our hearts is Christ and Christ alone. Let us pursue him with all of our heart and pray and seek opportunities to share Christ as the remedy for man’s atrial fibrillation of the heart.


Jason Hoyt is the BYX National President. He is super cool.


 

Friday Devotional: Building upward from a foundation of brotherhood and unity.

15 Byline Blake

You may have noticed it already but we are putting a lot of effort into defining and explaining our five key success factors through blog posts, chapter visits or changes in programming both nationally and locally. We identified those areas that are critical for success and are committed to the implementation of such things. As a reminder, the key success factors are pledgeship and recruitment, chapter meetings, cell groups, social and campus presence and leadership.

With all this said, I believe it is imperative that we do not omit the most foundational piece of our fraternity; the area which should infiltrate all that we do and all that we are. That is brotherhood and unity in Christ.

It is crucial that we do not lose sight of this starting point. The success factors are great and important, but those things which are important lose their effectiveness if they are not grounded in Christ. Without Christ at our foundation and centerpiece those areas of success are in vain and will not stand.

As an example, in Matthew 7 Jesus talks about building your house on a rock.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. -Matthew 7:24-27

 In the same way, we must build our brotherhood on a solid foundation. The moment we focus on ourselves or the house itself (the fraternity) is the moment we compromise the very purpose and identity of who we are. There are zero doubts in my mind that you can have quality in pledgeship and recruitment, chapter meetings, cell groups, social/ and campus presence and leadership with Christ being centric. I would actually argue that it is essential to be more effective and successful.

Every part of our success factors are good but if we are building those upon another foundation then we are simply wasting our time. Be mindful to get back to the basics, to simplify our mission and to remember the truth. It is of utmost importance that we as an organization stay true to who we are. And not just recognize that foundation but allow it to permeate and consume all of which we are. Nothing we do is mutually exclusive from Christ. He is preeminent (Colossians 1:15-20). Therefore we should strive to put love, truth, honor and grace at the front and center of what we do.

Friday Devotional: A marathon, not a sprint.

Byline BLee

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfector of our faith.” -Hebrews 12:1,2

Prior to joining the BYX National Staff in 2013, I worked in the world of education. I spent many years as a teacher and coach in an inner-city school before eventually becoming the principal of middle school with a large percentage of students that the state considered “at-risk.” I have many stories to share about the 10 years I spent working in the hood, but one sticks out as I think about the passage above where Paul exhorts us to run our race with endurance.

One year my school asked me to coach the cross-country team, which is kind of like asking Johnny Manziel to lead the church choir. I didn’t know a thing about long-distance running, much less how to coach others. I begrudgingly offered to take the job with no guarantees of success. And then I did what any good football coach would do; I forced my best athletes to run on my cross-country team.

I’ll never forget that first meet. I drove the bus to each of their houses since they could not get a ride to school. I intentionally did not show them what they would have to wear because I knew that would have been a deal breaker. It wasn’t until we arrived at the course that I handed out their uniforms.

Words can’t express the looks on their faces when they put those bad boys on. I remember one of them looked at me with a genuinely sad face and said, “Coach, I aint’ never seen my knees before.” Making these incredibly athletic kids from the hood wear those short shorts was humiliating for them, but they trusted me and were ready to compete. So they pushed past their humiliation.

We immediately piled out of the bus and headed to the starting line. The funny thing was, these guys were preparing for this race as if it were a football or basketball game. All the other runners were chill. Not my guys. They were HYPE. I had a feeling it wasn’t going to go well for us, but I was as eager as everyone else was to see how these guys with body types of sprinters would stack up against their much less muscular competition.

If it was a fight, my guys would have absolutely cleaned house. But this wasn’t a fight; it was a race. And not just any race, for if it was a sprint no one would have been able to touch my team, but this was a long distance race, which requires a completely different mentality and skill set.

When the gun finally went off, you can probably guess what happened. My guys took off like they were shot from that same gun. It was hilarious. As much as I tried to coach them up and tell them to pace themselves, instinct just took over. At the pace the leaders were running they could have set a new 5K world record but one thing was clear, they would not be able to keep that pace. It was just a matter of time before each one of them faded or hit the proverbial wall.

One by one they started dropping like flies. Soon nearly all of them were walking, huffing and puffing as they watched the other competitors pass them. There was one guy named Fred who somehow just kept running. He was so far out in front of the pack that for a few minutes I thought to myself, “he may actually win this thing.” But sure enough, he too ran out of gas and the leaders of the pack that were actually appropriately trained for this type of race caught up to him and passed him by. He managed to finish near the front despite walking the last quarter of the race.

I think it was a good experience for those guys. They learned that day that it’s not always the fastest guy who wins the race. When it comes to long distances, speed is no match for endurance.

I think that is what Paul is referring to in this passage. He exhorts us to run our race with endurance. The Christian life is much more like a marathon than a sprint. When we put our hands to the plough of the kingdom, we need to have a long-term view in mind.

I know many dear friends who ran hard in their race for a season, many of them in college, who are no longer running. Many of them have slowed to a walk and are weighed down by sin and many other weights that keep them bound up and unable to run. Some have even disqualified themselves with terrible decisions to leave their families for lessor things.

And then there are others, whom I strive to be, who seem to just gain speed with time. As they grow older, they seem to run their race with a greater sense of purpose and effectiveness. This is what I think Paul is aiming at in Hebrews 12 when he tells us to run with endurance.

I challenge you guys to run your race well. Run with all your heart this semester. Run with a long-term view of the race in mind. God has set the race before you. He knows every mountain you have to climb and every valley that you must descend into. Lay aside everything that is holding you back from running your race.

And as you run, look to Jesus as the author and perfector of your faith who, for the joy that was set before him endured the cross on your behalf. Lay aside what is behind you and run in such a way that you may win and that you might receive the prize of call of God in Christ Jesus. I promise you this. The reward is worth the sacrifice.

“I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it, yet one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on, I pursue, I run toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 3:13

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, be we an imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 9:24,25

Friday Devotional: Under God’s roof, what He says, goes.

15 Byline Bember

I was talking by the time I was eight months old. I have been trying to get the last word ever since. My parents would say one thing, and, without fail, I would always have a response as if they needed the perspective of a child to help them make a better decision. I always had to interject my perspective into the situation. Some things never change.

I was always popping off, trying to convince my parents to see my side, pointing out the flaws in their thinking or just generally being disrespectful. But it didn’t matter because ultimately I never had the last word as long as I was under the roof of my parents.

As for our vertical relationship with Jesus, it works in a similar manner. These kids down here will pop off. The world will always have an opinion. We personally will deal in lies. Regardless of what the world, our peers or even our own minds have to say, Jesus gets the last word. Under his roof, what He says goes.

Look at Romans 8:31-34

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

God is the one who has declared us to be in right standing with Him, and He is the only one who has the authority to do so. No one has the right to condemn us, and we need to really abide in that truth in this day and age.

If you don’t believe that, just look around. It’s heartbreaking to see the way that people, each made in God’s image, interact with each other. When we fail to see eye-to-eye with each other, our initial inclination is often to discredit the other person by name calling and stigmatizing. If you’re too conservative you’re bigoted, narrow-minded and stupid. If you’re too liberal you’re immoral, hypocritical and illogical.

It’s so easy to get beat down by the opinions that are flying around our culture. Thanks to the plethora of information at our fingertips, we can learn how stupid we are with just a few keystrokes. It feels like we need to develop the skin of an elephant every time we go into the world or hop online, or we will be eaten alive.

Speaking from experience, the condemnation and negative talk doesn’t end when you withdraw. I can be harder on myself than anyone. I have a way of remembering things that others don’t and then heaping condemnation on myself for situations that have been long since forgotten by others or situations that haven’t even happened. I feed myself lies and pile on shame and condemnation.

But Jesus gets the last word. When He has every right and reason to convict and condemn, He loves and lifts up. He doesn’t put out a smoldering wick. We abide in the fact that The Lord has spoken and decided who we are and where we stand.

The rest of the noise has to be blocked out. Why should we give any relevance to the words of fallen man, be it ourselves or others, when the God who used His words to speak creation into existence says we are loved, righteous and forgiven?

So try this: if a thought or comment doesn’t align with what The Lord would have to say, then just let it roll off you. Test everything. Hold onto what is true. Under God’s roof, he has the final say. And that is great news for us.

Friday Devotional: Pursue God’s purpose by his power despite our brokenness.

15 Byline Van Meter

Engagement is a lot of fun, but it is also a big challenge. And I don’t mean it is a challenge to be patient with the constant talk about the wedding and deciding which color schemes or specific flowers or who to invite; it is a challenge because it is a season that really addresses my spiritual walk and trust in the Lord.

Dating is all fine and dandy, but getting engaged and readying myself to be the best spiritual leader and spouse in a covenant relationship that I can’t ever get out of is a big deal. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to spend the rest of my life with anyone else, but lifelong commitment is a big decision and one I really want to be prepared for.

Throughout this process, I have been reminded of one major thing over and over: Me striving in my human nature and my own wisdom has zero comparison to the omniscience, promise, guidance and overall sovereignty of God. Every time I try to rely on my own strength or believe that my knowledge and experience can further me in life, He clearly reminds me that He is in control and should remain at the steering wheel in my thinking. Carrie Underwood knows exactly what I’m talking about in her song “Jesus Take the Wheel.”

What it comes down to is purpose. I was recently reading in Ecclesiastes and was interested in how the author (probably Solomon) was trying to figure out ultimately the purpose of life through observing its seemingly aimless cycles and inexplicable paradoxes. The author obviously has unrivaled wisdom (1:16), but he proposes that all is futile, since it is still impossible to discern life’s events fully.

The author says in Ecclesiastes 1:2-3:

“Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.”What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun?

Romans 8:20 alludes to the same concept of life being vain because of sin, “For creation was subject to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption [of sin] into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

If the one of the wisest men the world has ever seen (author of Ecclesiastes) couldn’t figure life out, then there is no way I could in my deficient wisdom. And I will heed his advice to enjoy life to the fullest, realizing that it is a gift of God (3:12-13); moreover, we must strive to live a life in obedience to God, recognizing that He will eventually judge all men (12:13-14.)

So is pursuing our goals and our purpose in our human nature, corrupted by sin, really worth it? Every time I have tried my way or the highway I encounter some sort of dead end, realizing everything truly is futile unless I am pursuing the Lord and His purpose for my life.

But praise the Lord that we can be set free from our slavery to sin! Yet, if we are made new in Christ, we now have a new master and reestablished purpose in our lives.

Romans 8:1-2 says:

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

And Romans 7:4 reminds us:

Therefore, my brothers, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

If we truly pursue God’s purpose for our lives, we will bear fruit for His kingdom. Although it might be hard because of our brokenness, there is still freedom in pursuing His calling. As I continue to seek and learn God’s purpose for my life and season of engagement, I encourage you to do the same in your individual walk. God’s purpose will always be better than our own purpose.

Friday Devotional: Determined pursuit by a loving Savior.

15 Byline Bember

In July 2005, my younger brother, George, was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer that attacks the lymphatic system. As I started my senior year of high school, I had to watch my only little brother (15) fight for his life against a disease that claims lives daily.

My parents made what was a no-brainer of a decision for them. They were going to make sure George got great treatment. Though it took great financial sacrifice on their part, they were bound and determined to save their son. There was not a bill that they could have been handed that they would have deemed too expensive for the life of their son.

And for reasons that I still can’t fathom, my brother beat cancer. I don’t ask why George got cancer. I’m too blown away by God’s grace that he beat it when so many others don’t. He currently lives with me in Fort Worth, works as a physical therapist and is contemplating participating in an IRONMAN Race to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of being deemed cancer-free next March.

We have a Heavenly Father who has dealt with us in the same manner, and we see this illustrated by Hosea. Hosea, an Old Testament prophet, had the honor and privilege of marrying a prostitute and having kiddos with names that meant things like No Mercy and Not My People. Lucky guy.

His bride, Gomer, left him to chase after other lovers. As she did so, Hosea still provided for her financially, ensuring that her lovers were able to feed her. Ultimately her lovers don’t take care of her, and she finds herself up for auction as a prostitute and the legal property of another man. At this point, Hosea steps in.

And the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”-Hosea 3:1-3

A pastor at my church pointed something in a recent sermon: the fact that he offered more than just silver suggests that he didn’t have enough money to buy her (his wife, mind you) out of prostitution. There was not a price Hosea wouldn’t pay. He shouldn’t have had to pay anything for his wife, but he showed his extravagant love by paying the high price.

Put yourself on that auction block. You are stripped naked, you’re defiled and degraded body on display for all to see. Every ounce of self-respect is gone. You’re dehumanized, treated as nothing more than a worn down piece of property. Consider the shame and emotional anguish.

Then the Hosea steps in and says, “That’s mine. There is no price I will not pay to have my bride. Whatever it takes. I am not leaving without her.”

The story illustrates the type of love that we have found in Jesus. When we were lost in our sin, on that auction block with no way to break the chains or purchase our escape, Jesus stepped in and said, “That’s mine. There is no price I won’t pay to call him my own, even if the price is my life. I will make a way. So take my life. I lay it down.”

When I see what my parents did for my brother and what Hosea did for Gomer, I see not only the love that the Lord has for me, but also the determination with which he pursues me. He bursts on the scene, finding us sullied and hopeless, and he ponies up, taking every one of our debts upon his body and restoring us to right standing.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, we see that Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross. I can’t blame him. In Matthew 26:39, he said, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” But his desire to save us from our sin superseded his desire to avoid being tortured to death on a cross.

I was bought with a price, and Jesus was determined to pay whatever price, no matter how high. In His eyes, it was a worthwhile, albeit costly, transaction; the life of the perfect Son of God to gain a people in rebellion, whose works of righteousness are nothing more than filthy rags. Inexplicably, Jesus loved me to death.

Friday Devotional: Reminders of the Gospel in baptism.

Byline BLee

This Easter will not be forgotten in the life of my family. In a lot of ways, it was a typical Easter Sunday filled with gifts from grandparents, Easter egg hunts, teaching on the significance of the resurrection of Jesus, time with extended family and other things that are part and parcel with Easter Sunday in the Bible Belt. These are all great in and of themselves I suppose (especially the part about the resurrection), but none of these are why this Easter was so memorable for me.

I have what most would consider a large family. My wife Steph and I have the honor of raising two daughters and two sons. My oldest is 8 and her name is Jada. Her name means “wise-peacemaker” and she fully embodies the meaning of her name. She has one of the most tender hearts towards the Lord as well as people.

About year ago I was putting her and her younger sister to bed one night. I remember having to discipline her sister and explaining the gospel in the process, when I noticed Jada was crying. After I tucked her sister in, I went over to Jada’s bed to make sure she was OK. I assumed she was sad that her sister was being disciplined, but to my surprise, she had a huge smile on her tear-stained face.

When I asked her to tell me what was going on, she replied by saying, “I’m just so glad Jesus died for me.” She was crying as she spoke, but they were happy tears. It was at that moment that I knew she got it. She understood that she needed a savior, and that Jesus was the one that had come to rescue and redeem her life. I talked to her about baptism that night, but wanted her to be the driver of that decision.

Fast forward to one week ago (about a year after this bedtime experience.) Jada has developed her own little faith and prayer life over the past year, and we have seen her become increasingly more convicted of her sin. Steph and I have been discussing baptism for Jada, but we had not approached her about it yet.

While I was away on a trip to Iowa, Jada told Steph that she wanted to be baptized, and she wanted to do it on Easter, just a few days away. Steph told me while I was on my trip, and I was eager and excited to get back to discuss more about baptism with my daughter.

As we talked through the meaning of baptism, I was reminded of the significance of such a symbolic act. I explained to her that to follow Jesus a long time ago meant that you had to risk your life. I explained that throughout much of the world today following Jesus means you will have to suffer.

It is amazing how easy it is for us to become lulled to sleep in America, especially in conservative, Bible Belt America. We have a difficult time relating to the costs of discipleship. We don’t quite know how to translate what Jesus meant when he said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” in Luke 9:23.

We struggle to identify with Paul when he declares, ”I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” Galatians 2:20. We struggle to identify with the reality Paul talks about when he states, “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin” in Romans 6:6.

Let’s face it, when times are good and there’s no pressure on our lives because of our choice to follow Christ, we tend to get sleepy. I have read about pastors that have been in solitary confinement for months and even years as a result of their faith in Christ. After their release back into freedom, I’ve read about how much they grieve the loss of the nearness of Jesus they experienced while alone and utterly dependent upon Him for their very survival.

Don’t get me wrong, my daughter’s baptism did not produce in me the desire to be persecuted. Far from it! But it did remind me to consider the reality that my old man has been buried with Christ in baptism. It reminded me through Jesus’ death and resurrection, he has purchased for me freedom from the bondage of sin and fear and death. I was reminded that as Bonhoeffer says, “When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

Through the process of baptizing my daughter, I was reminded of the gospel. Not just that Jesus died and rose again for sinners. But that he died, that those who live (that’s you and that’s me) should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Inherent in the gospel is a call to live, not for ourselves, but for the one who paid it all so that we might enter into the life that is really life.

My daughter reminded me of these truths this Easter. May we all walk deeper into the life and freedom that was purchased for us through Christ death, and the victory that is ours through his resurrection!