Beyond the Ballot

     It was off to the ballots! I headed out at 6:35 and made it to the ballot place at 6:56. 7pm cutoff time. I wasn’t expecting much to go on there beyond filling out a ballot and leaving, but God had more in mind for me beyond the ballot.

Divine appointments and opportunities:
      When I arrived, the first person I noticed was an old friend from high school of mine. I hadn’t seen him for over 4 years and called out to him from the back of the line. This led into a great conversation in which we concluded we should have a sort of reunion with our high school group of guys. This would provide a great opportunity to share my faith in the future.

      The next man I met was a local in Boulder by the name of Bruce. I shared my faith with him and wasn’t surprised when he said he was a believer who went to church nearby. I knew after the fact that he shared to me he was housing some people at his house. In my mind, before I told him about my faith, I was thinking ‘that’s a very Jesus like thing to do.’ We had good conversations about spreading the Gospel and about the Lord’s hand at work.
      During this conversation, a man came up to me asking if he could interview me. “Of course!” I said. I was given the opportunity to share my views and about Jesus through this interview that could possibly be on NPR. Please pray for it to be!
      Directly afterwards, I got the opportunity to start up a conversation with a lady in front of me named Casey. After overhearing the interview, she knew I believed in Jesus, so I got the awesome opportunity to be used by God as a potential small stepping stone in her life to Christ.

      I got to the ballot and, after having registered that morning, discovered my county had changed (oh the joys of moving very often as a college student). I was the last to vote in line, and didn’t get to after about two hours of waiting. I told the lady that I had been given many opportunities while I was there and wasn’t discouraged.

      I left the small mennonite church in Boulder to walk by a bus stop on the way to my car. There was a man named Derek sitting by the bus stop. He looked as a spitting image of a man that I met in the summer not far from there named Richard. A half black man with dreads and a hat on with a backpack-looking like he’s going on a journey. He asked how I was doing and I told him “well, I just got denied to vote”. We got into a deeper conversation and I asked what he believed spiritually. He said he believed many different things, a type of pick and choose religion. He then asked what my beliefs were and I told him (paraphrase) “I believe the only real Truths out there are Jesus and The Bible. When I sold out to Jesus and didn’t just ‘try Him out’ is when I realized that He was Truth and entered into a real relationship with Him beyond religious duties.”(John 14:6, 17:17)
      I then had the opportunity to share the story of how I met Richard not even a block away from there. How while I was on a prayer walk, Jesus told me, through His guiding Spirit, to turn down the narrow, dark path when I could have gone down the sidewalk that had lights all along it. That’s where I ran into Richard and was able to speak Truth into his life during his journey. (John 14:17)
      Please join me in prayer for all these people, that God would draw them to Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Application:
      There’s a lot more to voting then pen to paper, or dropping off the ballot. The voting ballot is very much a place that people are forced into patience and open to conversation. There aren’t many places like that anymore. At the grocery store, you run around, get your stuff, often check it out on your own in self checkout, and leave. There isn’t a lot of social opportunity these days as an adult. Many jobs are ones you can work at independently. You don’t have to wait in line inside a fast food restaurant-you can just go through the drive thru. Even in church, people can be independently there and choose to not talk to anyone-just come right when the service starts and leave.
      This night inspired me: God is a relational God. There’s a lot more beyond the ballot for us to be aware of. God can do more with a conversation than a piece of multiple choice paper. However, don’t get me wrong, I still believe strongly that everyone should vote as if there vote is the one that’s going to shift the majority. Your vote is a gift from God to fulfill Exodus 18:21: “But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes.” How much more must we fulfill this today, in our broken nation, in comparison to Israel? We must, people of God, we must.

The Cold Old Life to the Hot New One

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Whenever I take a shower in my house, the water heater is extremely hot so I don’t need a lot of hot water. It ends up being about 20% hot, 80% cold on the knobs. (Now stay with me..) Then, as the shower goes on, the water becomes less hot. To get the water hot again, I have to turn the cold water down so that the water can be as hot as it was. This is a gradual process until the water ends up being 100% on the hot knob turned in order for it to be hot, and it stays hot because there’s no cold water interference.

This is like our relationship with Jesus. It’s gradual, and we are entering a life of sanctification, in which we are gradually being transformed into the newness and renewing of our minds in Jesus Christ, giving more up to Him while He increases and we decrease (Romans 12:1-2, John 3:30).

  1. Once we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, we experience the living water that He provides us and are comfortable (John 4). With Jesus alone is “The Hot Water Life.”
  2. We realize that to be fulfilled by Jesus, we have to follow Him and gradually give more up to Him from “The Cold Water Life”, which is lived based on our own desires, because it is what He calls us to do: Deny ourselves and take up our cross daily (Matthew 19:21, Luke 9:23-25).
  3. Our goal is to be “Hot” Christians instead of lukewarm Christians (Revelation 3:15-16). We must pray fervently for the desire to know Jesus more each day, the desire that only He, through the Holy Spirit, can provide. Yes, and you could even think of “hot” from the attractive sense because someone with the eyes of Jesus sees the heart (John 7:24).

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You might say, “Wait, your analogy is fraud because the new believer is ‘hotter’ than the believer who isn’t giving up more of his life to Christ!”

If you’re not getting closer to God, you’re getting farther. It is better to assume that any day we aren’t spending with God or in Jesus’ name, we are falling away from Him. God expects His followers to seek to give up more to Him and to know Him and love Him more today than yesterday. (Matthew 6:33, John 3:30)

It reminds me of this song by Spiral Starecase, this is how excited we should feel about our relationship with Jesus! :

“Every day’s a new day of loving You,” and

“If all my dreams come true, I’ll be spending time with You,” and

“I love you more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow.” and

“I love you more today than yesterday, but only half as much as tomorrow.”

If this singer can sing about a girl this way, much more should we be able to sing about Jesus this way since He fulfills us and can give us a passion for Him that is far greater than that for a human when we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him with our whole heart. I’m reminded of when Jesus chose the disciples, they left everything. (Matthew 4:19)

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Verses:

Romans 12:1-2:  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

John 3:30: He must increase, I must decrease.

Matthew 19:21: Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Luke 9:23-25:  Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?

How does God Work Through us More?

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1. Holding back

I went on a run the other day for the first time since Fall. I realized something: my heart could keep going, but my legs were holding me back. Sadly, I had to run back much sooner than I thought. I realized I’d have to work on building my muscles up so that they don’t hold me back.

The same thing happens in our lives with Jesus. He wants to work through us, but we hinder his ability to work in our lives through the Holy Spirit. We do this by eating unhealthily, not exercising, over/undersleeping, and making excuses that we need something worldly to fill us up rather than having faith that Christ alone can do this (Matt 4:4, John 4:14, John 4:31-34).

This can also be done by giving God an agenda for our lives; ie “I’ll follow you, but only if I can still get this car/house/wife/kid/grandkid/etc” He wants to work through us, but we limit His work through us by not giving it all up to Him and grasping hold of our worldly desires as if we live off of them.

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2. Why should He?

Why should He bless your food to your body if you haven’t taken up your cross and chosen something healthy? Why should He bless your job if you are doing nothing for Him through it? Why should He bless your friendships if they are drawing you away from God and/or you are making that person an idol? (Matthew 4:8-10) Why should He bless your marriage if you haven’t put Him at the center of it? (Matthew 6:33)

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3. Be of good cheer!

But this shouldn’t discourage us at all; rather, it should encourage us to become even greater vessels for God to work in us (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)! It should become addicting as we see God work through us more and more the more we give up to Him in our lives.

So be of good courage, Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33) and blessed those who accept Him as Lord of their life and their Savior with the Holy Spirit to work through us to become more like Him each day (John 3:30). The best way for Him to work through us is to give up more to Him in repentance and not limit what God wants to do for His kingdom through us. This desire to know God more, pray to Him, and get into His Word and follow His plan can only can be given from God alone (John 6:44). We must therefore pray for the desire to know Him more.

For more about this aspect in regards to nutrition: https://connordefehr.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/god-and-nutrition/

Verses:

Matthew 4:4: “…Man shall not live by bread alone,but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Matthew 4:10 “…Him only you shall serve.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

From the Car to the Restaurant

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I pulled up to the restaurant, starved. The lights weren’t on so it took us awhile to find it. I walked out of the car. It was freezing, so I threw on a nice warm jacket. I could see the warmth at the end of the cold and knew it was coming, soon. I reached the restaurant glad to be out of the car and in a larger community of people. We usually are fine not being uncomfortable for a short amount of time, knowing that we will reach warmth very soon.

The very same thing is happening to we who are following Jesus right now, making Him Lord of our lives. We are to deny our own flesh, which makes us uncomfortable, cold.

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Cooped up in the Car

The car is our old lives, cooped up in our own fleshly desires, only comfortable in a little zone. We can only sit in the car so long before we get irritated and want things to change. There’s nowhere to go but to the backseat. We often get so cooped up in our ‘car’ (our lives) that we try and upgrade it: leather seats, a sunroof, more gadgets, a little bigger. But a car can only get so big before you feel limited by it. The hope people in the world have in their lives are in the upgrades that they will apply to it. After awhile though, you can only upgrade your car so much before it starts breaking and you have to repair it to have it back to where it was at its best. Additionally, you can only squeeze so many people in it. (Matthew 19:21)

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Putting on the Jacket to Face the Cold

When we accept Jesus into our lives, that’s when we step out of the car and leave our old desires behind. We clothe ourselves with Jesus: the jacket (Romans 13:13-14). He keeps us warm, it’s only Jesus who keeps us warm through the Holy Spirit, and it’s knowing, through the Spirit, that the restaurant is so close and being able to see it. The hardest thing to do is get our friends out of the car to walk with us, but when we do, it’s a very special thing. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

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Keeping the Restaurant in Sight

When we get out of the car fully, we see the restaurant, Heaven, in sight. Thus, we become kingdom oriented, focused on the things from above, not the things in the world (our little car). The warmth that is provided from seeing that is powerful. That hope is immense, and would hardly make combating the cold worth it if there wasn’t anything to look forward to. (2 Cor 4:16-18)

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Walking with Jesus

The path to Heaven is a narrow one (Matthew 7:13-14), not very many people have been blessed with the opportunity to see the restaurant (Matthew 13:14-17), and let alone, desire to deny everything they have built up in their car and tread the path set before them. Most people try and do it without a relationship with Jesus and thus, resort to going back into the car because it’s warm, or assuming they are good enough people on their own. I think of a bouncer at the restaurant door. When you get there, He says, “Where is your jacket?” You say, “I didn’t need it, I just beat the cold and made it through without one.” He says, “It’s too bad, we don’t accept people prideful, impractical people into our restaurant.” (Matthew 7:21-23 & 22:12-14) Your dad goes into the restaurant with the car keys and you are left in the cold, without a jacket, because you thought you could make it without your jacket (Jesus).

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Verses 

Matthew 7:21-23 (The Message): 21-23 “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

Matthew 19:21: 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18: Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

The Art of Foolish Arguing

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Recently, I have been dealing with arguments all over the place. In my house, in the work force, at school, well, basically everywhere. When I enter an argument it is usually about something completely stupid, and I know that, and assume the other person knows that. (2 Tim 2:22-26). Paul speaks against foolishness and I all too easily fall into it. The problem is, what I say is often misinterpreted and becomes offensive, not the way I intend it to.

When other people are offended by something, it doesn’t effect me and I am often cooped up in myself, I think “if I don’t feel bad afterwards, who cares? They probably don’t either.”

Wrong. “What’s wrong with you Connor?” I have limited and bogged down countless people by my joking ‘opinions’ and it has all been against the kingdom of God. I need to do this for the sake of others’ work for His kingdom, not for myself. Who cares about me? I need to get to the point where I don’t, because in who I am in Christ Jesus, I care about God and becoming the best vessel I can for Him. (John 3:30 “He must increase, I must decrease.”) It’s not the angel and the devil that I’m dealing with, it’s the angel and myself.

In reality, I’m a failure on my own, the only good that I am comes from who I am in Christ Jesus. I need to seek that more. Often, I think I have gotten to a point, then God puts me in my place “you’re not they’re yet.” (See stepping off our pride stool: https://connordefehr.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/stepping-off-our-stool-to-shed-our-old-wineskin-often/ )

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Things for self

That’s what most things have been, for myself. Unfortunately, things that are for myself are worthless. Jesus sought His Father’s will, not His own (John 14:10). He denied His flesh. I know unless I’m being sacrificial, my heart is in the wrong place. See, pleasure is all vanity unless it drives one to do God’s work. But often, it doesn’t and just distracts us from getting fulfillment in God.

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Pleasure to displeasure

For what comes after pleasure but displeasure? The pleasure of man cannot be redone because he seeks more than the previous time. Consider a beautiful view, once you arrive again, it isn’t as beautiful as before, or if it is as beautiful, there will come a time in which it will not be as beautiful and the heart will not find increasing pleasure in it. Even if there is pleasure at all, man will seek progress and will be sad if he doesn’t experience something greater (Ecclesiastes 1:8).

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Song: The Smiths: Bigmouth Strikes Again

This song speaks to my situation perfectly. It’s what I am: a bigmouth. (lyrics are in the video)

Are we called to look pretty and smell good?

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There has been an ongoing debate in my mind: is it better to look pretty and smell good, or do the very opposite? In the Bible, there are certainly people called to do both, however, the first disciples in the New Testament certainly smelled bad, looked bad, and didn’t get too much sleep. In the book of Ruth, Naomi tells Ruth to get all dressed up and smell good when she goes out to pick wheat so that a man will marry her-and it works! But we’re living in a New Testament world, right? And Jesus even rebukes the Pharisees for cleansing the outside of themselves without cleansing the inside. (Matthew 23:25-26)

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Awareness without conformity

Certainly, smelling bad, looking bad, and not staying up to date on fashion would be less worldly. However, in this increasingly worldly culture, that might be a bad idea. Obviously, not many of us want to be around someone that doesn’t shower, dress well, and look well, even if they are on fire for Christ. This is a grave misfortune, but it’s engrained in our culture’s minds.

We have to, therefore, look at the culture and be aware of it without being conformed to it (Romans 12:2) in order to reach more people in Christ’s name (1 Corinthians 9:20-23). Certainly, in our sinful nature, many of us don’t like to listen to people we can’t relate to. Therefore, it’s good to have a variety of people in the pulpit!(ie Fat, skinny, young, tall, short, and sports(and other hobbies) lovers)

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Natural or practical?

Sometimes, we have to make a choice: natural deodorant or regular(aluminum filled) deodorant? Aluminum filled is the only kind that smells good and supplies anti perspirent, a very vital protectant for some people with sweat glands that only exist in their arm pits… Based on research, we know that aluminum deodorant (ie most deodorants-anything anti perspirent) causes people to be more prone to breast cancer (slightly). Since I sweat up in there, I decided to go against what was ‘healthier’ for me so that I could relate and talk to people comfortably. Chances are I’m not gonna get breast cancer as a guy..especially since I eat healthy and exercise-which is most of the battle.

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Social Health > ‘Health’

Most assuredly, to an extent, social health is above other kinds of health-especially in a fellowship aspect! If you don’t feel comfortable around people (which is even more important in being a vessel for the Spirit to work through you than being diet/exercise healthy), it’s not worth it! (See blog post: https://connordefehr.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/god-and-nutrition-pt-iii-what-god-can-do-what-we-can-do/ ) Certainly, Jesus wants our hearts to look pretty and smell good more than our outer self. (Matt 23:25-26)

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Verses

Romans 12:2

New King James Version (NKJV)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

1 Corinthians 9:20-23

New King James Version (NKJV)

20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law,[a] that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God,[b] but under law toward Christ[c]), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as[d] weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

The misconception of love: Salad > Bacon

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We as a society have misrepresented loving one another. Think about raising a child, you don’t let them do whatever they want, rather, you help them do what they need. (Titus 2:5)

1. Jesus’ love

Jesus loved everyone and He showed it by getting up in disciple’s faces, challenging them, and even calling one Satan (Matt 16:23)! Jesus did what He needed to bring people in a closer relationship with Him, because He knew that it was the only way they would find fulfillment and purpose in this life, and in the life to come (John 7:18).

2. Salad > Bacon

Think about eating food for taste, it’s only good in that moment, not later on; in fact, it hurts your body (Philippians 3:19-21). The friends I appreciate most are not the ones who are ‘nice’ to me in the moment, but rather, the ones that are nice to me in the long run. They are looking out for me in the long run and admonishing me because they really care about me (Colossians 3:16).

A very good friend of mine who has known me for a long time told me that I was idolizing girls in my life and putting my energy into creating a better friendship/relationship with them. She told me it was sad to see that in me. I admit that I was enraged in the moment, but only because she was right. She was being used by God to convict me, and I thank God for using her to show me that.

3. Applying it

More recently, I’ve learned to throw away my people pleasing habits, especially when God is calling me to say something like that to a friend of mine. If a friend dislikes me in the moment for simply reflecting God’s word into their ears, so be it, because I know that later on, they will be thankful, and even if they aren’t, they will then know God’s way in that particular situation. It’s just like eating a tasteless salad for lunch, then feeling great the rest of the day.