Nothing Satisfies My Soul

For days, or really for years, I have been looking in all of the wrong places for something to satisfy my soul.

People. Social media. Acceptance. Hulu. Books. Talent.

Sin.

I just want that instant satisfaction.

Sin.

There are practices that the church is quick to condemn as sinful. But there are also practices we fail to recognize as sinful.

John Piper, in a Desiring God blog post, touches on how social media and electronics can be unhealthy, particularly if we begin our day with them. (To read his post titled “Six Wrong Reasons to Check Your Phone in the Morning,” click here.)

I wrestle with what to do first in the morning: have my quiet time or check Facebook? Have my quiet time or get ready for the day? And at some point the question becomes: check Facebook or get ready?

At some point, I remove time with the Lord from the equation. Anything can remove Jesus from the equation on a given morning – desire for more sleep, hunger, homework, procrastination, friends. Those aren’t bad things. (Okay, procrastination usually isn’t a good thing.) Nothing satisfies my soul. These things don’t address the longing in my heart for something deep and precious. It takes a lot of self-discipline and self-control to tear myself away from the world that I can see and touch and hear to spend time in the Word of God.

But my strength isn’t enough. It takes the grace of God to enable me to do what I need to do. Am I listening to Him?

If I never stop long enough to read His Work, to pray, to talk about the grace of God with other people, I cannot hear Him. My flesh and the Spirit of God do battle on a daily basis. How will I begin my day? How do I go about my day? How do I end it? I so often waste my time with what has no eternal value, and it frustrates me!

I love Piper’s quote that appears at the end of his article. He says this:

“I feel like I have to get saved every morning. I wake  up and the devil is sitting on my face.”

Every day is a battle. Each morning, what will I choose? I don’t always get it right. So often I put off my quiet time for the sake of homework or sleep or physical appearance (aka: not looking like a bum). But those things do not set my heart in the right place.; they don’t foster an eternal perspective. May the decisions I make bring honor to my Father in heaven. May the mystery and the power of the Word of God capture my heart. May the Gospel of Christ never lose its novelty in light of my sin. May the Holy Spirit use each morning to make me more like the Son who has risen once and for all for my sake. May I be satisfied in the holiness of the Lord who has poured out His life for me.

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Laboring in the Whitened Fields

To work or not to work on Labor Day – that is the question.

Actually, it’s not really a question I’ve considered today. Balancing relaxation and work is not always easy, but I’ve tried to do that today with a little extra sleep, a nice run, and some homework.

Work.

Labor Day = food (at least, it usually means food)

Now check this out:

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

John 4:34-38

Christ lays out what sustains Him: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” Jesus knew His purpose and He knew that carrying out this purpose would produce the greatest satisfaction.

Sometimes, my desire for a lazy day blinds me: “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”  I’m so focused on doing my own thing that I can sometimes miss what is right in from of me. Opportunities, hidden motivation (you know, that motivation you get after you finally start a project), and the fields that are ripe for harvest pass me by as I focus on myself and my comfort.

I know this passage isn’t about me. Ultimately, this passage points to God’s work. He is preparing people for the gospel, and if we aren’t aware, we will miss opportunities to speak with people. Sometimes, we sow – we plant the seeds of the gospel, we help get people thinking. Other times, we reap – we get to pray with someone to receive Christ, we see life change happen. Either way, it’s so important that we keep our eyes open to what God is doing in the world.

So are the fields white for harvest? What are you missing out on because you aren’t paying attention?

(Please excuse the very informal and rambling post as it is Labor Day, and I didn’t want to go overboard on my labor for today.)

“Are you Jehovah’s Witnesses?”

He glances at the card, slows down, and turns back.

“Are you Jehovah’s Witnesses?”

A response: “No, sir.”

A couple more steps and he turns again. “Are you Mormons?”

“No. We’re Baptist.”

“Okay, good.”

Then some encouragement that none of us could quite decipher because the man was already walking across the road.

That is a real-life story from last Saturday while a group of teenagers stood on a street downtown waiting for the last 4 people of our group of twelve. The teenagers and downtown scene is a regular one, but we aren’t down there for drinks or parties. Instead, we go downtown to share the gospel. (Okay, I’ve only been downtown to do this twice so far, but there are some solid people who are there every week.) This is a group of people who have taken a stand to obey the Great Commission. We go to talk with people, sharing the gospel and praying for them. (Notice, I said talking with people, not just talking to them or at them.)

This past Saturday we split into 3 groups, one headed for the transit station, one headed for the state house, and one handing out tracts on the street and near the park. (By the way, these aren’t the thin, three-fold tracts – these were legit tracts that one of our own had made.)  It was a bit of a slow day when it came to conversations, but we were running out of tracts fast. This one sophomore guy, we’ll call him C., was really cool about just being friendly (and a little competitive) about giving out tracts. He was the one who handed out the last of what we had to the guy who walked past with his buddy, resulting in the above conversation.

What that conversation really tells me about evangelism is that we as Christians are slacking on sharing the gospel. If we really believe we have the Truth, why don’t we share that with people more urgently, more passionately, and more frequently? Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are known for their door-to-door outreach. Most Christians are scared to death to tell others this simple truth:

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, fully God and fully Man, lived a perfect life. He then died, was buried, and physically rose again to give us salvation by grace and through faith. Christ’s sacrifice is the only payment for man’s sins. (Click here for a passage in the Bible similar to my summary.)

I often face a lot of conviction when this question is asked: “When was the last time you shared the gospel with someone? A family member? A friend? A stranger?” I freak out because I know this is something I should be doing, but I don’t do it regularly. That’s why I am so excited about a group of teenagers who are like-minded and want to step up to bat when it comes to obedience in discipling the nations.

So I want to leave you with this question:

When was the last time you shared the gospel with someone?

Super Barrio Bros.

Super Barrio Brothers.

(We work in areas called “barrios” where the government has moved people out of the streets of the city to these sections of land.)

Oh, wait… No… It’s Super Mario Brothers.

Although my trip to Nicaragua wasn’t a level of a video game where I was collecting coins, traveling down pipes, and jumping over piranha plants, our team had some adventures!

One of those adventures happened Wednesday night – there had been a little rain, and it had been a good morning and afternoon in the barrio. On the way out of Paradise barrio, as the Chosen Children Ministries (CCM) bus was moving through the mud, we got stuck on the corner of a road. Two extra hours in the bus, off the bus, and in the bus again as the guys tried to push and dig the yellow beast out of the muck. After awhile, a truck was able to meet us and pull us out, and by then we had a bus full of teenage boys covered in dirt. But it was an adventure! (The next morning, a few of us returned to the spot where the bus was stuck to fill in holes while some of the CCM staff and some of the members of the church fixed an electrical wire and a water pipe that were damaged during the adventure. Who said adventures didn’t have consequences?)

In our work projects, we accomplished so much as a team:

We dug a baptistery in the Paradise barrio church

                                                       We built a sidewalk around the church

Painted a church in the Marvin barrio

                                   Rebuilt or repaired 4 houses

Handed out at least 100 hygiene bags

                       Spoke with a lot of people about the gospel; 21 people accepted Christ while we were in Nicaragua

Over the next few months, I will share more Nicaragua stories. There are so many things I witnessed and experienced while I was there, and I cannot wait to share these adventures with all of you!

How Then

This month has been full of blessings and it has been a constant reminder of the goodness of God.  Four days ago, I celebrated the resurrection of my Savior!  He is not dead; He is alive!  Even after Easter leftovers are eaten, and the candy from the “Easter Bunny” is long gone, I am still going to celebrate the I serve a God who is alive!

Easter is the very foundation of the Gospel.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4

This is the Gospel: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only payment for man’s sins.

Christ came to earth to pay the price of my sins; He came to give me salvation, and bring me into a personal relationship with Him.  He did that for you, too.  He died for the sins of the WORLD!  My desire to share this message with the world stems from the LIFE God has given me.  God’s love, peace, forgiveness, and hope are all things I want everyone to experience.  The passion I have for missions is a result of Christ’s sovereignty in my life.

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Romans 10:13-15

That verse has been such an encouragement to me as I get ready to go to Nicaragua in July!  A lot of the time, when I find a verse that really means a lot to me at that certain time, I’ll write in on my wrist.  Romans 10:13-15 has been on my wrist for the past several days, and in my mind for even more. 

I am so excited to use my life to bring glory to my Lord in Nicaragua this summer!  I want to thank you so supporting me with prayers and financial support.  God continues to show me His provision when I begin to wonder how I am going to raise all the support I need for my trip.  God’s provision stuns me.  My jaw drops at His answers to prayer.  I have seen this Scripture breathed to life:

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

Thank you for partnering with me in the Gospel.  I am praying for y’all. 

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:3-11