I am going to Scotland!

Image

Hello friends and family, I hope this letter finds you well!

Since I have graduated from The MVMNT Internship/Logos Christian College, I have been working in several different areas at The Harvest church. From leading small groups, to administrative work, and our missions program. Mvmnt Missions is a program designed for Jr High – College Age students to train for five months in a classroom setting to be a missionary and then end the program with an overseas trip. This year we are sending 73 students divided up into four teams to: Thailand, Scotland, Haiti, and Kona. I and four other staff will be taking a group of around 20 young professionals to spend a few weeks in Scotland from July 21st – August 2nd, 2014 serving the people there and proclaiming the good news of the gospel.

Our primary goal for this trip is to go and serve the churches that are established there. Whether we help do some repairs around the church, or help lead services, our goal is to go and be a blessing to them. We will also be doing some street ministry during this time to go and be the church outside of the church.

I’m so excited to see what will come from this trip not only in and through me, but in these young professionals. I am so excited to see how God will move through and continue to develop this group of college students. Last year being a part of the Thailand trip was phenomenal so I am ready to see what is in store for us in Scotland! Over the past 3 years of being on The Mvmnt staff God has totally transformed my life and I believe that by going on this trip, I will be able to share some of this joy and love with the people of these countries.

God has opened up a door for me to develop a greater heart of compassion for His people around the world. As I prepare to embark on this journey, I would like to ask you to be able to share in this excitement with me. I would be so blessed by your partnership with me and my team as we go and try to make a difference. Primarily, I ask that you help cover me and my teammates in prayer. We need prayers that God will prepare us for our trip, that He will open up our eyes and our hearts to see what He wants to do through us, and for God to open up the hearts of the Scottish people to receive the gospel. We also need prayers that our financial needs will be met. At this time I need to fundraise over $2,000 to cover the costs of my trip. I know God has ordained me to go on this trip and that He will provide financially, and on deeper levels as well. All prayers are greatly appreciated by me and my team, and I believe that they will play a key part in reaching out to the Scottish people.

Another way you can be involved is to help provide financial support. If you could consider supporting me with a small donation, it would bless me in a huge way! If you feel led to contribute, please make checks payable to Bianca Barja and you can mail them to my home (comment with your email address and I can send you my home address!).

Or if it is easier you can pay online by clicking here or the “Support my trip to Scotland!” link at the top of the page.

When on the online giving page,

  • Type in amount desired to give
  • Where it says “Designation” click on the drop down menu and select “Scotland Trip 2014”
  • For “Enter name of team member you wish to donate toward”, fill in: Bianca Barja
  • Fill in your email address, and then hit continue!

Whether you feel led to contribute financially, through prayer, or both, all of your support is appreciated!

I look forward to doing God’s work in Scotland and letting you know all about how God has worked through this team when I return.

Thank you so much!

Bianca Barja

For more information about Mvmnt Missions and for blog updates while I’m abroad, visit MvmntMissions.com

Advertisements

Coming Home

You’ve longed all your life to go home. You never new what that meant. You were so far gone that the dump and the filth you found yourself in became your living quarters. You made friends with the rats and cared for the rubbish because it was the only thing you could own. “How could I long for home when this is the only life I’ve known?” Like a stray dog that had no memory of running through the hole in the fence as a pup. Someone, somewhere, was broken hearted at your loss. Plastering the town with signs hoping for the world to know to keep an eye out for you. To look after you. To tell you that you belonged to a home. All that junk kept you from him. You were buried too far in it. And it broke His heart. He couldn’t take it any longer knowing that at night you cried yourself to sleep. That you had no one to tuck you in. You had no one to teach you how to ride a bike or read you stories. That you were trying to build a home with mounds of trash. You were royalty. So, He sent me. The big brother you’d been hoping all your life you had. I think deep down you knew what you were searching for, but the reality around you could not make sense of the longings in your heart. It was hard work trudging through all that muck and mess. Who knew your little world had become so vile. This was no way for anyone to live. I got scraped up. Banged up. Cut up. Sharp pieces of glass ripping at my clothes. My hands cold and tired. I was stained and smelly but I had to find you. I came all this way and I wasn’t going back to dad empty handed. When finally, I heard the soft whimpers beneath some tattered rags and I lifted them up. My heart sank. There was so much joy filling my heart to see those eyes in person looking back at me. But I didn’t think I could bear that throbbing pain to see my baby sister feeble and damaged. I picked you up. Before I could even say a word you threw your arms around my neck and sobbed my name into my chest. Neither you or I needed to say a word. The urgency of your grip tightened as your memories from infancy all came rushing back to you. How you were enticed by the open door Dad warned you about. How you couldn’t find your way home. The despair and shame you tried to cover up with those tattered rags. And the more you built your own home among the garbage, the fainter the memories of Home got until they were gone all together. But now, standing here with me. I knew you knew. I knew your heart would not be long in coming to me. “Where’s Dad?” you sobbed. “He’s not mad at you. What you did broke his heart. He searched everywhere for you but you hid from us without even knowing you were doing it. He sent me to find you. He couldn’t give up. He wouldn’t give up until He had you. You don’t have to run anymore. I’m going to take you home. But first, let me help you clean up.” We walked together as I led you to the stream. You disrobed and I helped you bathe. Scrubbing away all the stench and mud. Cleaning your wounds. It reminded me of how I helped Dad look after you as a baby. You were always a baby in my eyes. I think sometimes it frustrated you because you had a desire to be very much grown up. But I think now you understand I just wanted to protect you. To love you. When you arose from the water, you heard the voice of your Father. Like a familiar melody. You ran to Him. Clinging to Him. Never wanting to let to go again. “I’m sorry Daddy” you sobbed. “All that matters is that you’re coming home now. There’s a banquet waiting for us. Let’s go.” And as you both began to run together, you called out to me. I would be with you all soon, I said. I wouldn’t be late to the banquet. In fact, I had to pick up some very important guests. You knew. You knew I was going to stay behind and clean up and empty out that dump. I saw the giant smile on your face when you realized there were more brothers and sisters that were going to find their way to their special spot at the dinner table as you were about to do. You really did take after Dad.

I will fight for the heart of my King or die trying

“I didn’t say I would be homeless; I said I didn’t care if I became homeless. I want to change the world. Can’t you just hear my dream?” – Mariah McManus (The Barbarian Way)

Started reading the Barbarian Way in internship. If you haven’t read it- I’m only on Ch 1 and it’s phenomenal. To put it simply, I finished reading that first chapter wanting to give away all my things and just do whatever I could to bless people and fight to follow the heart of my King or die trying.

So today at dinner before mvmnt, Shelbs, Laura, Cindy and I were discussing Barbaric ideas and how it would feel so good to leave out on a trip with nothing in mind and nothing in hand except for to make His kingdom known.

During preservice prayer, I was thinking about this and really felt strongly to lead a mini trip of this sort over winter break since we have like a month off.

I want to get in 2 cars with 8 people total. Each car with a full tank of gas. Each person with max $50 and only what they can fit in a backpack and just leave Allen having no clue where to go and asking God to lead us as we drive.

When we get to said location(s), I just want to do anything I can do share the love of Jesus. Whether it’s spending time chatting with a homeless man and taking him out to eat, or paying for someones groceries, or praying for strangers, healing people, preaching on the side of the street, praying over areas, spending time with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christs, meeting other ministries- WHATEVER it could possibly be, I want to do it.

All while not having any idea where we’ll sleep that night or what we’ll eat for the next meal. The trip would last between 5-7 days.

It sounds not as “drop everything” as I’d want it to be but I’m still praying about it. Maybe switching it to $25? Who knows.

Regardless of what it entails, I am excited to see what God will do with this idea.

Earnestly I Seek Thee

I’m still incredibly behind on posting these updates, and for that, I apologize.

Last week was full of excitement, sadness, breakthrough, frustration, and desperation.

Monday started off with finding out that Brittany is having a baby! I am so excited to have another Mvmnt baby running around  that I get to babysit! That day we also built a tent blind folded for our team interactions class which was surprisingly difficult but it managed to get accomplished. After learning about the book of Joshua I went home, read poetry, and gave candy to cute little trick-or-treaters.

Tuesday had so many different emotions but overall was a really hard day for me. The morning started off awful with Bailey (the dog of the host-home I’m staying at) dying. That situation was so incredibly rough for them and I was super bummed too because she felt like my puppy too. I miss her a ton. Right after that we stepped into intern prayer and it was a spiritually exhausting one working on building up our spirits and pressing in to new levels. For class time Pastor Dustin taught a two part class. The first part was him just being super real with us about what’s been going on in his life and about opposition that comes in ministry, second half was about public speaking. Both parts were really good and very raw and brought us to a new level as a group.

Before we headed off to Sulphur Springs to help minister/back up Dustin speaking at Unleashed, we had a group lunch at Chilli’s. That was our first official roadtrip of the internship and on the way there I had a migraine like nobody’s business.

We arrived there and had preservice prayer and God just began to speak to me about different things and reveal a lot of scripture to me in a new light. Then after prayer, Perla tells me, Shelbie, and Ryan that Dustin wants us to share for 3 minutes each before he speaks. Never in my life have I been afraid of public speaking until this internship haha. We had about an hour to prep and I decided to preach off of a section of my book review- the part about Nehemiah finding strength in God’s joy in obedience.

It went pretty well I think but I was super nervous, but I got it done and after that my Tuesday got better. Ministry time was powerful and the ride home was a million times better than the ride there. There was a lot of dancing, a sonic run, rapping, and more dancing.

Wednesday was another rough day because we had a 2 hour test over the Pursuit of Holiness. I love writing and I love that book, but that was an incredibly long test. Then during prayer, everyone was crying and getting touched by God and I was not. Not like in a jealous way at all, but it was just rather frustrating to not have breakthrough and feel like you’re doing something wrong.

However, preservice prayer was really powerful and was an amazing kick-off to that weeks services. That night I saved Sammy’s life (or elbow) with my first aid skill, made some new mvmnt student friends and PD brought a powerful word! I also finally got to talk to him about some things that have been going on lately and about the call God’s recently given me (more deets to come later), and asked him for the “hard word”. Overall, the conversation went a lot better than I thought it would and I love my pastor a whole bunch.

Thursday Ben taught a super convicting class about daily disciplines and hearing the voice of God. Even though I had been having a rough week, we really broke through a barrier during Thursday night service.

Pastor D was preaching both at Mvmnt Plano and Allen that night, and even though I thought he’d be super tired after preaching in Plano he came to Allen full of energy and reading to flow. It was a super powerful message about having desperation, seeking Him, knowing Him, and trusting in Him with your call.

Ministry time was incredible, the students, staff, and band were all rocked by God in a new way. After a couple tough weeks of Thursday nights, we hit our breaking point and pressed in to what God had for us. It was worth the wait for sure.

The Joy of the Lord is My Strength

These past couple weeks have honestly been really difficult. Every single one of us have been having a hard time and on top of it all- our leaders were being attacked too.

I took it as a good sign that obviously we’re doing something right and satan isn’t gonna put up with it anymore, but it was still a tough battle to fight especially when we’re all being attacked.

All of our leaders and/or their kids were really sick so classes on Monday morning for Logos were cancelled which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise because our business project team got to meet. I won’t go into a whole bunch of details just yet, but the vision of Teo’s that we’re working on is incredible. I am so excited to actually be working on one of the first very rough drafts of Taste and See. When this thing comes to pass in the near future, it is going to be world changing.

When I got home that day I started working on my book review for the Pursuit of Holiness. I had chapter 17, the final chapter, and it was on the Joy of Holiness. I was already really excited to do it because whenever Brad was talking about Holiness in the Body and was so passionate about it, I remember specifically thinking “I wish my chapter was something I was really passionate about, like joy”… and what do ya know? It was.

It was only a 4 page long chapter but God just spoke to me SO much reading it and gave me a deeper understanding of what the author was trying to say as well as spoke to me new revelations that not only applied to the book review, but to my life.

I’ll post a few of my notes below but to go see the rest of what God spoke to me on you can click here!

A Holy life produces the anticipated reward

  • Victory follows obedience always.

–          You’re in a fixed fight, to get the prize all you have to do is finish the race but even sometimes that can be difficult.

  • “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

–       Last Thursday I was having a really rough day and I was sitting in the sanctuary before church and God led me to this verse. It really spoke to me in that moment. God reminded me that you guys/Mvmnt students are my “great cloud of witnesses” and to just throw off all the junk that’s been hindering me from running. I love the way it says sin “so easily entangles”, it’s so true! I realized that I’d been letting stupid little things get in the way of my holiness and joy. I’ve wanted a faith boost and reading that He was the creator, and perfecter is so amazing! If we want the perseverance and holiness that Christ carried, we need to fix our eyes on Him and see how He lived. FOR THE JOY SET BEFORE HIM He endured the shame and pain of the cross. He knew there was a prize coming. He took joy in saving billions of souls. He took joy in doing the will of the Father. He took joy in suffering. He knew what he was fighting for and rejoiced in what was to come even though His current situation was painful. We need to consider that and have the same joy in seeing students’ lives changed that Christ had being nailed to the cross for us. He endured it all so that we would not lose heart. Take heart in knowing that Jesus dealt with suffering, and even then He was fighting for your joy.

  • Just like Jesus wouldn’t let hardship throw off the anticipation of joy for getting His reward, don’t let circumstances deprive you of your anticipation.
  • Joy not only results from a holy life, but produces a holy life

–       The exiles returned to Jerusalem after being in captivity for 70 years under the Babylonians. They got back to their promise land to see it all torn apart. When Nehemiah was speaking to them, they had just finished rebuilding the walls of the city but that wasn’t enough. Their lives were completely in shambles. Their beloved city was ruined, they were slaves, they’d forgotten their spiritual heritage but above all, they had forgotten God. Finally, Ezra stepped up to the plate and everyone “came together” as one to hear him read out of the book of the law. He read literally all day long clearly and giving meaning to what was written so that people could understand. They had to go back to the law and the people wept because they knew they couldn’t do it on their own. They knew they’d been disobedient and that they had to get back to His law. That’s when Nehemiah steps in in Nehemiah 8:10 and says “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength”.

–       Their circumstances were already rough to begin with. I honestly almost cried a little thinking about what it’d be like to be in their position and literally having to start everything over again from square one. And on top of it all, they just got a huge slap in the face from their own disobedience. But Nehemiah knew that even though obeying God was going to be incredibly difficult, especially after so many years of disobeying, but that the joy God was going to feel seeing them return back to Him was going to make everything worth it

–       Obedience is difficult, but let the fact that it brings God joy give you strength to persevere

– If you begin to rely on your own joy to give you strength, there’s a pretty good chance you are always going to fail. Although God intends a holy life style to be joyful, it is often accompanied with sorrow and suffering and if you’re dependent on your own joy in those situations, you will make no progress. But if you are dependent on the joy of the LORD for strength, whenever you are in obedience you will always be able to persevere.

 

That was just a little snippit of the breakthrough God wanted to do in me that week.

The next day I decided to see what it would be like having my quiet time in the morning rather than at night so I woke up early and prayed. Then during corporate intern prayer, spirit of God MOVED. I had all sorts of breakthrough just get unleashed and it was ridiculous. It was the start of a good day for sure because later on I scored a run in wiffle ball. It was a legendary moment in my life.

Wednesday I finally got to share my book review turned mini message with the class and that was super fun! Shelbie Gil and I had webcam fun in celebration

Ministry time at Mvmnt that night was insanely powerful. I got to pray with someone recommitting their lives to Christ and several people got delivered from shame in their life.

It’s really emotionally draining to pray for people that start crying when you pray cause then I start crying and it’s just an emotional spiral from there. I had my own breakthrough moment that night as well. I really want to share about it but I must wait for a more opportune time since I haven’t told really any one else yet. So… patience.

Thursday we went to a homeless shelter downtown called The Bridge. It was really an amazing experience even though we only got to tour the property. Just hearing about their heart for the homeless and how much they’ve changed Dallas in their 3 years since opening was powerful. I can’t wait to go back and serve!

Thursday was also Bree’s birthday! Since she and Jess are my accountability group this month, we got to have a fun birthday lunch at Chilli’s and the waiters sang and gave us free desert. Fun times were had by all.

To quickly summarize the rest of the week- Thursday night ministry time was just as powerful as Wednesday night. Pastor D was back and was PREACHIN!

Mary came into town and we visited Julia in the hospital, watched Joseph King of Dreams, and carved a pumpkin. Then that night was the famous Great Pumpkin Chase. Oh my lanta. I have never forced myself to be that competitive and energetic in my entire life and I felt it Saturday because I literally slept all day long.

Sunday I finished Hinds Feet on High Places and Pastor D preached it up at The Harvest and it was a very timely word. One thing he said that really stuck with me was

“It’s still a yoke and it’s still a burden- but His yoke is easy and His burden is light.”

I promise that once I catch up on all the posts I’ve been late on they will be overall less scattered. Until then, I apologize.

He is big enough and He is good enough

This week started off rather slow, but had some good potential. Gary Keesee came and did a provision conference, I wrote a paper on C.S. Lewis for my business class, went to Chipotle 4 times, chatted with Lindsey, went to school lunches to eat with my little disciple Hannah and Rachel, and we made hot coco for all the Harvest staff during outreach hour.

OH. And we had not one, not two- but THREE dance parties at The Mvmnt on Wednesday.

I don’t think Dustin had any idea what was coming when he walked in the doors and Taylor Swift was playing over the speakers. It was quite enjoyable- however, the week seemed to decline in party mode from there.

During prayer that night I got the scripture Proverbs 21:4 in my heart and I looked it up and it said “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!”. At first I kind of blew it off thinking it was “my flesh” that came up with it. But as with most other times when I don’t want to hear things and try to tune them out, God really convicted me of it. That was the first time all internship that I really just took notice of how prideful and judgmental I’d become towards a few people in the internship. Hearing that was just a much needed slap in the face and helped me to remember that I’m nothing special and that when something is bothering me, I need to react with compassion, not judgement.

Fast forward to Thursday when my favorite person in the whole entire world, Jamie Bates, comes in to teach a class on the nature and character of God. She taught us about the difference between the two and how they are both so incredibly vital to our Christian walk. Normally when I leave one of her classes I leave trying to absorb as much information as I can and wanting to fall to my face in the presence of God- that day was no different. It really made my heart turn more towards Him and the enemy knew that and came in and combated those thoughts all day long.

Thursday was just a super rough day for some reason. Nothing in particular happened but the weight of everything around me and all the disunity, drama, and downers from the week just hit me all at once. I was sitting in the kitchen in our break before service and with all my inner emo, started crying. I allowed myself to be totally vulnerable before God and He met me in that moment. He began speaking scriptures to me and it was my comfort in a low place.

“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,  now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” – 1 Peter 2:1-3

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” – 1 Peter 2:23

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:1-3

I think the reason I found so much comfort in those verses was  because instead of God telling me “everything’s going to be okay” and just showing sympathy, He revealed to me that I need to persevere, trust in Him, throw off what’s hindering me, and RUN with joy.

My God is so good to me. It was also really cool because Hebrews 12:1-3 became a really big part of my book review but I’ll write more about that next week.

Last but not least, we unveiled the master plans for the new building at The Harvest this week. After being a part of this church for like 9 years, I am so stinking excited to see all the dedication our staff has put into seeing His kingdom come finally bear fruit.

The Joy of Holiness

Here’s a book review I did on the Pursuit of Holiness about joy for the internship 🙂

Pursuit of Holiness

 Chapter 17 Book Talk – The Joy of Holiness

Verses on Joy

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” – Romans 14:7

“I will praise you, LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.
The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Isaiah 12:1-4

Drudgery vs. Joy

1)   Often, living a holy lifestyle is associated with restrictions and rules that bring you down and don’t allow you to have any “fun”. But, God intended obedience to His will to result in a lifestyle of joy.

Obedience Linked to Joy

1)      In John 10:15-11 Jesus links love and joy to obedience of the Lord’s commands:

  • “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

2)      Only those who are actively living a lifestyle of holiness and obedience can experience the joy that comes from God.

How Does Holiness Produce Joy?

1)      Fellowship with God

  • “You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand” – Psalm 16:11
  • God shares His joy with those who walk in fellowship with Him. You become close to God by obeying his commands, and when we sin and stray for them – we lose His presence and His joy to replace it with temporal joy of the world.
  • Example: David and Bathsheba. He walked away from God then not only prayed for repentance, but for restoration.
  • “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me” – Psalm 51:12

–          What that means to me: I think we are overwhelmed with such a joy in salvation because that’s when we’re most submitted to God. Submission leads to obedience, and by handing over complete control to Him in that moment and emptying ourselves out, He comes to fills us up with the joy of His presence.

–          If you want God to restore you to the joy of your salvation, examine your walk of holiness and get back into submission/obedience. “A life of disobedience cannot be a life of joy” (Bridges 150)

  • Submission

–          Obedience requires a lot of submitting. By submitting to Him we must trust that everything we put in His hands will benefit us and contribute to our eternal joy.

–             Example: John 3:22- John is talking to his disciples after they asked what he thought of everyone going to Jesus to get baptized instead of him. His response was “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”

–             John knew he was only holding onto these things temporarily and that they belonged to the One that created them. He was delighted to see the alignment come to pass- it completed his joy. He knew that for obedience and joy, Christ must be exalted above ourselves.

  • Our experience of God’s love is linked to our obedience to Him

–          His love isn’t dependent on our obedience, but our experience of it is

–          God’s love precedes and follows our obedience

–          By preceding our obedience it “creates in us an eager desire to keep Christ’s precepts”

–          By following our obedience it “rewards us for keeping them”

  • There should be joy in your life just from knowing that you are obeying God and no longer resisting Him

–          After a long struggle between Spirit and sin, we have been set free by His grace and have conquered the sin that previously mastered us

–          Example: my personal depression/joy that came from knowing I’ve been set free from it

–          “There’s a holy laugh that consumes you when you’ve been set free from the grip of darkness. There’s a joy that overtakes you when you realize you are no longer a slave to sin.”

–          You could call it the joy of victory, but really it’s the joy of obedience.

2)      A Holy life produces the anticipated reward

  • Victory follows obedience always.

–          You’re in a fixed fight, to get the prize all you have to do is finish the race but even sometimes that can be difficult.

  • “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

–       Last Thursday I was having a really rough day and I was sitting in the sanctuary before church and God led me to this verse. It really spoke to me in that moment. God reminded me that you guys/Mvmnt students are my “great cloud of witnesses” and to just throw off all the junk that’s been hindering me from running. I love the way it says sin “so easily entangles”, it’s so true! I realized that I’d been letting stupid little things get in the way of my holiness and joy. I’ve wanted a faith boost and reading that He was the creator, and perfecter is so amazing! If we want the perseverance and holiness that Christ carried, we need to fix our eyes on Him and see how He lived. FOR THE JOY SET BEFORE HIM He endured the shame and pain of the cross. He knew there was a prize coming. He took joy in saving billions of souls. He took joy in doing the will of the Father. He took joy in suffering. He knew what he was fighting for and rejoiced in what was to come even though His current situation was painful. We need to consider that and have the same joy in seeing students’ lives changed that Christ had being nailed to the cross for us. He endured it all so that we would not lose heart. Take heart in knowing that Jesus dealt with suffering, and even then He was fighting for your joy.

  • Just like Jesus wouldn’t let hardship throw off the anticipation of joy for getting His reward, don’t let circumstances deprive you of your anticipation.
  • Paul and Barnabas faced persecution and still were filled with joy in Acts 13:48-52

–       The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joyand with the Holy Spirit.

  • Parable of the talents

–       To the servants who multiplied their talents: “Well done good and faithful servant… enter thou into the joy of the Lord.” – Matthew 25:21,23

–       God has given us the “talent” of having the option to walk in holiness. When we are fruitful and obedient with that talent, we can anticipate walking into the joy of the Lord.

–       Before even reading the next paragraph, I was going to talk about the joy of the Lord being your strength. Author beat me to it.

  • Joy not only results from a holy life, but produces a holy life

–       The exiles returned to Jerusalem after being in captivity for 70 years under the Babylonians. They got back to their promise land to see it all torn apart. When Nehemiah was speaking to them, they had just finished rebuilding the walls of the city but that wasn’t enough. Their lives were completely in shambles. Their beloved city was ruined, they were slaves, they’d forgotten their spiritual heritage but above all, they had forgotten God. Finally, Ezra stepped up to the plate and everyone “came together” as one to hear him read out of the book of the law. He read literally all day long clearly and giving meaning to what was written so that people could understand. They had to go back to the law and the people wept because they knew they couldn’t do it on their own. They knew they’d been disobedient and that they had to get back to His law. That’s when Nehemiah steps in in Nehemiah 8:10 and says “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength”.

–       Their circumstances were already rough to begin with. I honestly almost cried a little thinking about what it’d be like to be in their position and literally having to start everything over again from square one. And on top of it all, they just got a huge slap in the face from their own disobedience. But Nehemiah knew that even though obeying God was going to be incredibly difficult, especially after so many years of disobeying, but that the joy God was going to feel seeing them return back to Him was going to make everything worth it

–       Obedience is difficult, but let the fact that it brings God joy give you strength to persevere

– If you begin to rely on your own joy to give you strength, there’s a pretty good chance you are always going to fail. Although God intends a holy life style to be joyful, it is often accompanied with sorrow and suffering and if you’re dependent on your own joy in those situations, you will make no progress. But if you are dependent on the joy of the LORD for strength, whenever you are in obedience you will always be able to persevere.

  • “The Christian living in disobedience also lives devoid of joy and hope. But when he begins to understand that Christ has delivered him from the reign of sin, when he begins to see that he is united to Him who has all power and authority, and that it is possible to walk in obedience, he begins to have hope. And as he hopes in Christ, he begins to have joy. In the strength of the joy he begins to overcome the sins that so easily entangle him. He then finds that the joy of a holy walk is infinitely more satisfying than the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Bridges 151).
  • There is infinite joy awaiting us, but you cannot get to the reward with going through the process

–       Obedience à hope à joy à strength à satisfaction, but it all starts with obedience

–       Obedience entails forsaking sin, not only because it is detrimental to us but because it grieves the heart of God

–       Joy of the Lord works backwards as well. Whatever brings Him joy strengthens us, but whatever grieves His heart – all though it may provide temporal joy – is ultimately what ruins us.

  • Back to the beginning of the book, we need to count ourselves as dead to sin because Christ has already delivered us from its dominion

–       We can now actually say no to sin and choose obedience and joy but it is up to us to accept the responsibility to discipline ourselves in that way

  • He’s given us all we need for our pursuit of holiness

–       Freedom, the Holy Spirit, revelation of His will, His word, and He is always working in us

–       He’s given us pastors and leaders to encourage us

–       He answers our prayers when we ask for strength against temptation

–       It’s really just a matter of our choice

–       “Will we accept our responsibility and discipline ourselves to live in habitual obedience to the will of God? Will we persevere in the face of frequent failure, resolving to never give up? Will we decide that personal holiness is worth the price of saying no to our body’s demands to indulge in its appetites?”

–       If we really want holiness we can’t just sit around anymore waiting for God to make the first move. He’s already made it!!! It’s time for us to take a step of faith and trust God to do His part which He’s already promised to do.

–       He’s commanded us to be holy and given us the means to do so, the privilege is now ours along with the responsibility and if we make the decision to do so- we can truly experience the fullness of joy which Christ promised to those who walk in obedience with Him

 

Closing

  • “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:3-6, Paul and Timothy to followers of Christ in Philippi