A Better Rope

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Audio here: http://www.connordefehr.com/2016/10/theres-better-rope.html

As I think about people trying to get better, trying to grow in someway or another, what is brought to my mind is a rope.

I remember having two different kinds of ropes in gym class when I was in elementary school.

Rope #1: We had the rope with knots every step, so if you got tired or slipped, there was always another knot below you to support you. Additionally, you could rest every step if you were out of shape. This allowed people to even rest one knot from the top, or rest once they got to the very top and enjoy the view around them.

Rope #2: We also had a rope that didn’t have any knots at all. This was the kind of rope that you would need to be really fit in order to climb. You would go up really fast, and be back on the ground because you couldn’t take a break halfway up the rope or you would lose energy. Even if you did make it to the top, you would quickly be back on the ground.

Most people go through life struggling to maintain growth of any kind, they have a rope without any knots on it. They seem to do better during certain seasons, but when certain circumstances come, they don’t have anywhere to place their feet and rest, any “knots”. So what happens? They slide back down to the ground and go back to “square one” for a time. Back to the old habits, the old desires that kept them from growth in the first place.

What I am here to tell you is that there is a better rope. A rope that has knots that you can put your full weight on and even rest on as you take one step at a time towards growth in your life.

Because of his (God’s) glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” (2 Peter 1:4)

You may say, wait a second! I’m not God! None of us are. But when we believe and put our trust in the first “knot”, the first promise that Jesus died and rose again so we could escape the results of sin and our selfish desires; when we believe that promise and ask Jesus’ to save us from sin and its various effects on our lives, we receive the Holy Spirit who is able to progress us towards God and away from what we are doing that we know is not progressing us towards what God wants for us.

God then continues to show us many promises, many “knots” we can rely on according to who He is and what He has done for us. After the first promise though, it’s tempting to go back to the ground. In some ways, it’s easier to ditch the goal of being more like Jesus, the perfect man. But why go back to ground after you’ve just begun? God always has another knot, another promise that we can step on in order to bring us closer to Him.

Maybe that next promise is the reality that when we walk in obedience to God’s desire, his will for our lives, we can, Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them (your enemies), for the LORD your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you! (Deut 31:6, NET)

Now, there is one who is able to keep you from falling (Jude 1:24) and His promises can be relied upon. One knot at a time, through obedience to what God wants for us as shown in His Word, the Bible, and by the leading of His Spirit, we can progress towards a closer relationship with God and thus reflect Him better to this broken world as His light shines on us and we shine to the world around us through being closer to Him.

So what is the next knot, the next promise that God wants you to step onto? The promise of who He is or of what He has done for you?

Lord, thank you that you have established promises in Your Word telling us what You are like and how You work in line with your character for those who trust and are obedient to You. Show us the next knot that we can step on to be closer to You. Help us to be obedient to You before our selfish desires and we trust that You will use us as we progress towards You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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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.

One way God works through the Super Bowl

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If you asked a team’s fans who has never won the super bowl what would be the most fulfilling thing, what would they likely say? “For my team to win the super bowl!”

Well, we believers in Jesus, and we whose team has won a super bowl know that it does not bring a sense of fulfillment upon us after the initial high of winning and seeing them with the trophy. Life goes on, the same as it was before. You aren’t a better person because your team won, you’re the same, maybe worse because you realize you put your heart and soul into screaming your lungs out for a team who didn’t do a single thing for you.

I’m sure most of my audience is Broncos fans, so it would probably hurt to hear this, but I really believe God works through games to glorify Himself. I think of the same experience King Solomon went through in Ecclesiastes 2 when he realized nothing would fulfill him from this earth:

“Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Ecc 2:11 ESV)

For many of us, only when we get to the end of our pursuit of fulfillment will we realize that it is striving after wind and that we won’t be fulfilled by it because fulfillment only comes in the pursuit of things.

God knew that we would only be fulfilled in the pursuit of something so He sent His Son to be that fulfillment. We have the blessing of not having to search anymore for things to fulfill us other than God alone: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

He’s the one we were wired to pursue, and now there are more distractions to pursue than there ever was before; endless supplies of Fiction books, TV shows, and video games to give us something to pursue instead of the One who is fulfillment Himself.

It’s so sad. I long for the day when our pursuits of pointlessness will end and people will see Jesus Christ descend upon the earth and realize: no other pursuit matters other than knowing God and making Him known among this broken world.

Therefore, be exceedingly glad that Seahawk fans came to that realization yesterday-one more unfulfilling thing to check off the ‘bucket list’.

Pray with me that these fans would turn to Christ, realizing and experiencing that only He can bring the fulfillment we need.

Just ask Him! (Life as a vapor)

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There’s a lot of controversy between if following Jesus is something we do or something the Father does. Well, which is it!? We have to recognize that countless times in Scripture, when God wants to give us something, all He wants us to do is ask!

Asking is a humble thing to do, it’s realizing we are inadequate on our own and need God desperately. That’s what it takes to ask God for something, because if we aren’t humble, that is, realize that we are, in fact, a vapor compared to God, we probably won’t ask Him for something wholeheartedly. Jesus knocks at our door and when we accept Him into our lives, He then lets us knock on His Father’s door through Him and the Spirit (Revelation 3:20-21, Romans 8:26-27). Let’s consider all the ways God wants us to ask for something.

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1. Ask in line with God’s will

(Matthew 6:9-13):

In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.Your kingdom come.Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

This is how Jesus taught the disciples to pray, so it could be said that asking in line with God’s will is top priority (see also 1 John 5:14). But how do we figure out what God’s will is? Read through the 4 Gospels and the Book of Acts to get an excellent idea of how to ask in line with God’s will. It is interesting and important to note that Jesus doesn’t tell us to spend all our time figuring out God’s will, just ask for it to be done. Some of the first churches certainly knew how to do this and saw God work in pretty amazing ways (see Acts 12:3-11).

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       2. Ask humbly

(James 4:13-15):

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

Realizing what we’re like in comparison to God is important lest we take up the philosophy “ignorance is bliss”. If we think we are more than a vapor, all we’re doing is fooling ourselves into pride, when actually, we are more significant when we put on Christ. The only way to clothe ourselves with Christ is to realize we need Him (Romans 13:14). We are so vapor-like that we don’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow, when God sees the whole scheme of things for eternity. Therefore, we should ask in line with God’s will since He knows all.

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3. Ask persistently

(Luke 11:5-12):

“And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?”

There can be differing viewpoints on this passage, but if you pray for something consistently that is apart from God’s will, will His will not be done? Of course it will be done! It’s that we get the privilege of being a part of God’s will when we ask in line with it. It’s not like we are predestined to do everything God wants us to do (although He certainly knows what we’re going to choose to do); but wouldn’t you rather do what God wants you to do than what you want to do?

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4. Ask in secret

(Matthew 6:1-8):

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

Asking in secret is all about the heart. If someone goes to church and prays in the sanctuary with many people around before or after service, usually it is so that they can convince the other people around that they are a ‘good Christian’; though the Christians following Christ realize they are bad and realize they are even more bad throughout their lifetime because they discover more sin in their life. This is an advantage! In Luke 7, we learn that he who is forgiven much loves much, so the more sin we learn that Jesus has taken for us, the more we’ll love Him. Although our Father knows the things we have need of before we ask Him, often times, He chooses to wait for us to ask Him, so prayer really does make a difference! In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah conceives a son when she prays. God’s will still could have been done if she didn’t pray, but He chose to act when she prayed. We see this in Matthew 13 when Jesus chooses not to do many mighty works in His hometown because of their unbelief. Of course He could have healed if they didn’t believe, but He chose not to. We see that many times, it’s the same with prayer, because God will do everything He can to use our efforts for His glory.

Beware the saying: “Once this is over, my life will be better”

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Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel? Unfortunately, there is none, in this life at least. Good luck finding it, because it’s not there. It’s like seeing a mirage in a desert but when you get there, there’s no water.

       The deceiving lights vs the fulfilling Light

As we learn in reading the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon, the richest, wisest man with over 700 wives, was never satisfied, although he thought he would be once he was done with making his palace big and getting knowledge, wisdom, the ladies, and money. In fact, we learn that his pursuits increased his sorrow:

(Ecc 1:17-18): “And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for wind. For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”

Think about summer break as a kid. For all of us, it wasn’t as good as we thought it was going to be when we got there. Have you ever had a situation that was better than you thought when you got there? I certainly haven’t-and if I have, it faded in the blink of an eye and I was suddenly grasping for wind again (Ecc 2:11).

In John 1:7-9, we learn that Jesus is, in fact, the Light, and there is no other. Our light at the end of the tunnel hope is to be applied to Him only, not the situations of the world that always let us down. He is our Light at the end of the tunnel, and when we reach Him, we actually will be fulfilled!

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      Why are we kept unfulfilled?

Would you really keep coming back to drink of Living Water if you were always fulfilled? It’s our sin holding us back. If you constantly have a water bottle with you, you don’t even miss water or remember what it’s like without it; but if you go without it for a day, you realize how much you need it.

So it is with God when He sees us taking Him for granted. We see it countless times in the Psalms where the pray-ers say things like “Lord why have you drawn away from me?” It’s because we have taken Him for granted in our sinful, selfish, prideful state and He wants us to turn back to Him.

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       Fog for a reason

So when you feel unfulfilled, be careful to not have any light at the end of the tunnel situations in this world or assume tunnel at the end of the light situations, for you do not know God’s plan. He has placed us in a fog for a reason so that we can take our next step well.

(Ecclesiastes 3:11) “…He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no on can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”

For you do not even know if God wills for you to live tomorrow and you can be confident that the things of this world will not fulfill because they never have in the past.

James 4:13-16

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.

In the Fog with Eternal Fuel

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Matthew 6:31-34:

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God[a] above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

All of us are driven by future orientedness in someway or another. People are fueled by hope, it’s an innate desire which God has provided us to be applied to a relationship with Jesus.

We all struggle with future orientedness because it is much easier to apply hope to physical things. The problem: physical things don’t last and we have to work harder each time to find something physical to hope in since we realize at the end of our hope that what we’ve put our hope in is unfulfilling. It’s like a tunnel at the end of the light when we get to it, and a light at the end of the tunnel when we pursue it. After all, we are only fulfilled in the pursuit of things.

2 Cor 4:18: “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.”

Think about the end of school when you were a kid, everyone gets on the bandwagon of hope: “Once school’s over, life will be great!” It’s interesting how no one remembers how the past 10 summers were unfulfilling when they got to the start of summer.

Everyone puts their hope in something worldly and pulls fuel from that hope. It’s easier to hope in something you can see. But what’s the benefit of putting your hope in something that you can’t see? Like 2 Cor 4:18 says, it’s eternal, therefore, you can hope in it for your entire life. The hope that is given to us when we admit we are sinners, repent from our sins, accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and follow Him-praying to Him and hanging out with Him, is an immense one that can only be provided by Him.

One scripture in particular sticks out to me:

Ecclesiastes 7:14

14 When times are good, be happy;
    but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
    as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover
    anything about their future.

See, God doesn’t want us to know about the future, He want’s us to live in the moment and see how to live with Jesus right now, today. God keeps a fog in front of us so that we can take meaningful steps today. After all, how can you see the fire under your feet unless you look down? If you are looking too far ahead, you’ll automatically step on that fire, but like the picture above, you can always see the cross above all the fog-the hope of eternal life through Jesus alone that keeps us going.

The only way to live for today is to shift our hope in physical happenings in this world to the eternal joy that can only be found in Him. After all, happiness is based on happenings. If your house burned down today or your laptop got stolen, would you still be joyful?

Things to pray for:

-Pray for God to reveal to your family, friends, and enemies the unfulfillingness of the things that are seen and that God will draw them to Him and into a relationship with Jesus-the eternal hope. (2 Cor 4:18, John 6:44)

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?