Saturday, September 14, 2013

All the Vain Things

"All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood."
~When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

I want to be able to truly fellowship withe the Lord. I want to know what intimate relationship with Jesus Christ actually is. I what to be His companion. Check out this verse:

"Who shall ascent into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He that has clean hands, and a pure heart; who has not lifted up his soul to vanity" (Psalm 24:3-4).

Who can truly retreat to fellowship with Jesus Christ? Who can really know what standing in His holy presence is? One who has not lifted up his soul to vanity.

Vanity - "hollowness, worthlessness"

What are the vain things that you are holding on to? What have you refused to let go? What temporal things do you love that is keeping you from enjoying something that will last forever? Maybe it's a sin problem. Maybe its pride in your performance-based living. Maybe its concern for what others think about you. Maybe its not being intentional in what you do. Maybe the vanity in your life is complacency. What is it?

Unless we have surrendered all the vain things that charm us most, we cannot know REAL fellowship with Jesus Christ.

Whatever the vain things are, they aren't worth it. Jesus Christ is everything. Communion with Him is worth it all.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One Reason to Journal

September 6th I started a new journal. The old one was filled between May 5th, 2013 and September 5th, 2013. I've never filled one so quickly. I'm completely amazed at the amount of lessons God has sent my way over the course of this short summer. Many of these lessons are penned in my journal and it brings me so much joy to read through those pages and remember how the Lord met me.

You know? Remembering the faithfulness of God in our lives isn't just joy-filled, its also a biblical concept.

All throughout the Psalms, the writers are constantly recalling the way God was faithful to Israel, faithful to their fathers and faithful to them. Several chapters recount the works of the Lord: Abraham, Moses, the Exodus, Egypt, and the prophets. These chapters also warn about foolish forgetfulness. Because once a people forgets what God has done, they stop trusting Him and giving Him glory. They begin to doubt that He really can provide, protect and care for them.

Psalm 78 is an example of this. Read the whole Psalm. It is a cycle of the sinfulness of Israel, their forgetfulness of God, His judgment, their repentance and His mercy. The purpose of the Psalm is found in verses 7 and 8.
"That they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments; and may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright" 
The purpose of constantly retelling Israel's history was so that the generation to come would not make the same mistakes. He was saying "Hey! Look at what your ancestors did! They didn't trust in God. But see what God did? See His mercy? Don't make the same mistakes."

This is the inspiration that I get when I read over the pages of my journal. On September 6th, I wrote:
"Today, I start a new journal. Not many feelings can compare to this. The last journal is only testimony and testimony of how You have met me day by day. You've never left me to figure it out or deal with the problem by myself. Reading over these pages shows nothing but Your guiding hand, Your love, and Your comfort. How good You are to me, Lord."
We are easily forgetful. If we do not constantly bring up in our minds what God has already done...if we do not constantly recall the truth about His power and limitless ability...if we do not preach to ourselves about God's faithfulness...we will forget. Just like Israel did. We will repeat history by trying to make our own way, trying to figure out our own future, trying to provide and protect ourselves, and eventually we will turn to worship ourselves.

To forget God is a weightier problem than forgetting the existence of air, water and food. We cannot go on without Him. We need Him. I need Him.
Here is a good reason to keep a journal: You can remind yourself what God has done. Example - Sometimes, you may think, "I haven't changed; am I saved?" Look through your journal. What has God done? How have you actually grown? How have you matured? God is in the business of making us like Jesus and increasing our faith. Never forget that! If you are His, He is working in and through you for His purposes and His glory.

Sometimes, it takes recalling the past to give us hope for the future.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Unmeasurable Grace

Oh Savior of man,
How can it be?
That You should show
A wretch like me
Pure love, pure mercy,
Unmeasurable Grace?

My sin - a stake -
In Jesus' hands,
Unknowing fulfillment
Of Your righteous plan.
What love! What mercy!
Unmeasurable grace!

You saw me in
My helpless state
Then snatched, pulled me
Towards freedom's glad gate.
Oh love! Oh mercy!
Unmeasurable grace!

It is for nothing
Which I have done
That You blessed earth
With You precious Son.
Only love. Only mercy.
Unmeasurable grace.

Forgiveness reliable
Your wrath? Not a trace!
Give not just for me,
But the whole human race
This love, this mercy,
Unmeasurable grace.

The sins of the guilty
The Lamb, Your Son, did bear
Though He knew many
Would die without care.
Unheeded love, unheeded mercy.
Unmeasurable grace.

Oh God, let me be
Used only for Thee
And all that I do
Reflect only You.
Your love, Your mercy,
Unmeasurable grace.

When at us they look,
Please let the world see
How we've been changed
By that accursed tree.
Transforming love, transforming mercy,
Unmeasurable grace. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Very Teeth of Suffering

"Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God is of a different nature altogether. It does not hate tragedy. It does not deny reality. It stands in the very teeth of suffering. The love of God did not protect His own Son...He will not necessarily protect us - not from anything it takes to make us like His Son." (Elizabeth Elliot)
God's ways are so interesting. He reaches and changes us in strange ways. To us, it may seem like bullying, unfair, unnecessary, excessive or malicious even. But, how gentle and good the Lord is. Oftentimes, after I have learned a hard lesson, I think, "Did it really require that much pain?" But my good God is in the process of making something out of me. Something that this Ashley has yet to know. He is refining me. Yes, often its painful. But that's okay. I do long to be refined. I do long to be made into something else. I do long to be like Jesus Christ. Do you think an easy road will bring me to the place of picking up a cross, dying to myself and conforming to the image of Christ? Most definitely not!

My Christ-likeness requires fire.

And our response to that should be, "Bring it Lord! We walk with You!"

We can come out safe on the other side of this refining fire because of the love of God.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This deep love is too deep to protect us from everything. Sometimes, we need the pain of the world to bring us to an understanding of God and make us like Himself. Job came out on the other side of His trials and said, "Now my eyes see You." If the Lord helps us to see, know, feel and understand Him - then He has demonstrated His love in the most deep and personal of ways.

Joyous fellowship with God, all day long. Do what it takes to bring me to that, Lord!


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Established From of Old

Psalm 93 talks about the eternal reign of the LORD.

The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; The LORD is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established so that it cannot be moved, Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; The floods lift up their waves. The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea. Your testimonies are very sure; holiness adorns Your house, O LORD, forever.
"Clothed with majesty"..."throne is established"..."everlasting"..."Lord is mightier"..."testimonies are very sure"..."holiness adorns."

These are a few of the colorful phrases the Psalmist uses to describe the eternal reign of our Father. It is beautiful to meditate on the establishment of our LORD's kingdom! No matter what world power, or country, person or leader has been raised up to rule in the temporal world, HIS kingdom will prevail and HE will forever reign.

Many kingdom, peoples, sects and religions have been raised up, only to fall down again. They are waxing, waning, weak, strong, here today, gone tomorrow. But never forever. HIS kingdom is the only on that will stay strong, unmovable, unwavering throughout the seasons, years, decades, centuries and millenniums.
Your throne is established from of old. You are everlasting.
Who can prevail against Him? What person? What nation? What power? He alone is eternal and good, righteous and holy on His throne.

Today, I am secure. I am at peace in Your hands. Whatever waters arise, whatever waves lift up their voices - HE is mightier. And HE is mine. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Cost of Discipleship (Part 2)


It is only fair to properly warn you that being a disciple of Jesus will cost you everything. But it is something that you cannot live without. It is worth everything.

Luke 14:28 says, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it?”

What builder is going to lay the foundation of a tower without first checking to see if he can afford the final cost? In the same way, you must be sure you can afford the final cost of being a disciple.

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple… And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple…So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:26,27 and 33

Yikes. Those are some pretty intense callings. What is Jesus talking about when He’s saying “hate” you family? Take your cross? Forsaking all?

When He says, you must “hate” your family, He is speaking figuratively. In comparison to your love for God your Father, all other earthly love must seem like hate. Not meaning you must be hateful and dislike them. Not at all. We are always called to love. But, our relationship to other things and people cannot even be likened to our love for God. This type of intense love for Him should cause us to take up our crosses (live the way He lived – in sacrifice) and forsake everything that would try to hold us back from following Him wholeheartedly.

That is a high calling. At this point, you could turn around and leave. You could say, “I can’t do it. He is asking for too much.” Many people forsake God when they realize what type of life He calls them to live. But friend, remember where you were. Remember what life you escaped because of His love!

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world [culture], according to the prince of the power of the air [Satan], of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among the, we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses made us alive together with Christ.” Ephesians 2:1-5

He saved you from much. You were on a hell-bound race and He plucked you out. How could you turn back now? He has chosen you as an addition to His family. He has removed your filthy, disgusting rags and has clothed you in garments of white, fit for the kingdom.

Salvation is only the beginning.

A scarred, broken young lady stood before a crowd. Her hands were chained and she hung her head. The garment she wore was tattered and smelling. Her hair hadn’t been brushed in a few months. The crowd was strangely quiet. They were supposed to be bidding to buy her, but no one must have wanted the smelly, scarred girl. The auctioneer was throwing out lower and lower prices, but no one dared to move. When the auctioneer almost gave up, a man at the back of the room offered a huge, unthinkable sum. One that even the wealthiest man wouldn’t offer to pay for the strongest, best looking slave alive. Sold! To the man with the million dollars! Her new master ushered her into his vehicle and drove her to the new home. She knew that when she got there she would be beat and forced to work. So she waited. But something else happened. As soon as she arrived, she was given a warm bath, good food, and beautiful clothes. Her hair was cut and restyled. Her wounds were attended and ointment was put on her scars. Then, standing before her master she cried. “Sir, what do you want with me?”

In a gentle, loving voice he replied, “Sweet child, I have bought your freedom. You are free to go and do as you please.”

But she wouldn’t leave. She begged him to claim her as his own. “Sir, nowhere I could go would be better than sitting at your feet. I will follow you my entire life.”

What could be better than following our Savior forever?

Our dear, precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ called out to the disciples that were fishing "follow me!" The call of the Gospel is the same today. He says, "Follow me!" Don't just accept forgiveness and forget Him forever. It doesn't work that way. Hear the call, follow the call to pick up your cross daily, deny yourself and follow Jesus Christ to love, purpose, and fulfillment. Where else would you rather be? His companionship in persecution is much more joyous and wonderful than solitude in times of blessing. 

"Follow Me," Jesus said, "And I will make you fishers of men." 

^ A much higher calling than any other. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cost of Discipleship (Part 1)

Your salvation was only one part of the Christian’s walk – from here on out your relationship with the Lord will blossom into something beautiful you never could have imaged. But, just as a beautiful plant needs to be cultivated, pruned, watered, fertilized and given sunlight, you also need to be discipled. As you have been accepted into the family of God, He is going to train and change you – basically make you His disciple. This process is often painful but always rewarding. It will train you in the way of our mutual Father.

You have probably already heard the word “disciple” a few times. Let’s start by defining what that word actually means.

Disciple n. follower; pupil (Webster’s World Dictionary)

Here are some quotes by some respectable Christian men that may expand the meaning for you.

“Disciples are people who believe, those whose faith motivates them to obey all Jesus commanded.” J. MacArthur

“Discipleship is something continuous, it is a way of life. A true disciple has an affinity for his teacher’s instruction and accepts it, not blindly but intelligently. The teacher’s instruction becomes the disciple’s rule of faith and practice.” F.F. Bruce

A disciple is a person who learns the way of life from his or her Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. As a disciple, you are to be discipled. You must be taught how to establish an intimate relationship with God and learn how to trust and obey Him. Normally, a new believer is discipled by someone who is wiser in the faith. This could be a friend, an elder, a pastor. . .or whoever! Just someone who will sit down with you and teach you what it means to walk with the Lord.

Don’t get confused. The goal of this discipleship is not to make you a prestigious “do-gooder.” It is not so you get a good job in the church. The goal of this is to bring glory to God by becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ, during His ministry on the earth, had disciples. They were twelve men that He hand-picked to train. They had all different backgrounds but joined together in following Jesus. These guys went everywhere with Him! They watched Him perform miracles, heard Him teach many times, prayed with Him and built a strong relationship with Him. The twelve disciples learned to love and trust the Lord. On top of that, Jesus trained them to continue His ministry when He left. And they did! Jesus’ disciples became the starting point for the evangelism of the world!

You can be discipled in the same way! You do not have Jesus physically here with you - that’s why you have the Bible. You can be discipled by Jesus just by reading the letter that He has written for His children.  

This probably seems like an impossible task. Becoming like Jesus?! I’m still trying to take care of my sin!! No worries, the Spirit of God does this in us. It doesn't come from our own strength.

"Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed in Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” John 8:31-32

As disciples, if we are seeking the truth found in God’s word, we will be set free. Everyone around you is searching. Searching for reality, purpose and truth. All the while, they are enslaved by their sin. God’s word sets us free from this. As His disciples, we have intrinsic value and meaning. We are free from sin! Free from the endless search for purpose!

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Gospel Can't Do It's Job Unless I Become Billy Graham

Last week, during the EI Youth Conference, we went downtown to pass out tracks.

You want to know the truth? I HATE doing this. It always places an overwhelming burden on my heart and I dislike carrying it around. But, nevertheless, we did. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of just handing out a track - don't get me wrong - I will, but  I like to talk to people about it at least for a second. Well, we were downtown for about 45 minutes. You know how many people took a track?



I asked a lot of people and got flat out rejected every time.

"Ma'am do you have a minute?"
"No, I'm spending time with my family."

"Ma'am do you have a moment?"
"No! I do not!"

"Would you like a free Gospel of John?"
"Uhm, no I don't need one."

The people who did take one were very sweet and allowed me to give them a short gospel presentation - an opportunity I was very thankful for...but, guess what? They were Christians? I mean, I was glad to hear that, but the only people that I spoke with were Christians? Man...I have to trust that God was sovereign over that trip, that something said/done/shared by any of the students that day was eternally impactful.

More and more lately I have the burning desire to share the Gospel with people. A deep, frightening sense of emergency is rising in my heart. I thank God for this burden, but frequently I'm peeved about my clumsy presentation of the Word of God.

Eh. God spoke to me a lot about this at Youth Conference. For the most part, I'm a pretty easily distracted person. Generally, that's due to the enormous amount of things I'm processing at once (I tend to think on a couple different trails at one time). When I open my mouth to say something, a lot of times nothing comes out and I end up having to stop and try to remember what I was saying. Unfortunately, this does carry over into witnessing.

This past week at the conference, I heard several testimonies from people who have been completely changed by Jesus Christ. Some of them had truly crazy stories and you wonder how they survived it all...when each shared, they had a contagious fire in their eyes that I knew could only be attributed to the work of God in them. One of these I am personally acquainted with and I cannot remove the fire of Christ from what I know about him. These people now LIVE FOR GOD. What happened? How have they been so changed?


And guess what? I have that truth in my hands. The Bible. And that Bible says that I am equipped as a believer to share the truth with other people - no matter what I perceive my limitations to be.

So, back to me witnessing. I've definitely pulled a "Moses." I try to find an excuse. "God, I'm awkward with people." "God, I don't talk very well." "God I'm scared." "God, I don't know the Bible well enough yet."

Oh cry.

Really? If I had the cure for AIDS would I say to someone, "Oh I'm sorry, but I can't share the cure with you because I'm a little awkward... Because I don't know the exact words...Because I may not execute very well for various, obscure, unimportant details..." This is what I have done with the truth of the Gospel. Obviously, I have measured the success rate of the Word of God based on my human ability. How offensive to the LORD is that? Yikes. It's like I'm saying:

"If I cannot present the Gospel perfectly, then You can't work, God."
That's not just bad witnessing strategy. That is flat-out rebellion, denial of the power of God, and elevation of the influence of man.

Those people who shared the testimonies of their changed lives weren't led to Christ by famous, amazing speakers like Billy Graham or anything...they were led to Jesus by friends, family members...everyday, normal people. Why do I feel like that's too much for me?

Do I think the Bible says, "Ashley Jones is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword..." NO WAY!!! It says:

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).
Isaiah 55:11 tells us that God's Word always accomplishes its purpose. My purpose as His child is to share it. The result IS NOT my responsibility. But, the Word DOES have to be presented. Who will do it? Am I gonna cower in the corner because I don't have eloquent speech? Are you? God will work and move with His powerful message of life if we speak. If we are going to be cowards with the message of life then we need to examine ourselves and make sure we are believers. If you aren't thankful enough for the grace of God to be compelled to share about it, maybe you didn't receive that grace in the first place.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14).