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The Most Valuable Exercise You Can Get

dreamstime_xs_34568158By Jesse Jost

Would you like to hear God’s voice more clearly? Would you like to be filled with the Spirit’s power? Do you yearn for greater wonder at God’s glory? Hungry for insight into life or wisdom for life’s many choices?

If you have even the slightest spark of spiritual life, you will answer resoundingly, “Yes!” I think we all desire these things and request them frequently in our prayers. But our actions prove how much we really desire these things. God has given us means to experience dramatic growth in each area mentioned. But unfortunately it requires work, sacrifice, and discipline.

“Oh, I was hoping that it could just kind of happen by magic. That I could hear a great sermon, or attend a worship service that would change everything.”

Yeah, me too. In fact, I keep hoping and praying for such an experience. Sometimes God does work that way. The instantaneous filling of God’s Spirit is powerful to change us. But from the track record of history and the recorded experience of the saints, it seems that the normal way God transforms his people is through His Word.

God’s Word is not like our words. We use words to describe things or attempt to convey thoughts. But God’s Word creates and transforms. God speaks, “Let there be light,” and the planets and galaxies rise, shining in space. Jesus shouts, “Lazarus, come forth!” and a man dead for four days springs to life. When God speaks into our soul, we are changed. His voice is the most explosive power in the universe. Power of this magnitude is terrifying. Who else do you know that could destroy you and your soul with a single word?

Thankfully, the heart behind such awesome power is full of great mercy and tenderness. It is a heart of an artist, full of beauty. It is a kind and compassionate heart.

At some mysterious level, it seems God has restrained the power of His voice. At least for the time being, He has given us freedom to decide how much we want to tap into this power. We have to seek for wisdom diligently and will find it when we seek with all our hearts. But make no mistake, this power is available to all through the pages of the Bible.

I believe the equation is simple: the more you get the Bible into you, the more you will experience the benefits mentioned at the beginning of this article. It’s what God’s Word itself promises: Continue reading…

  • Rachelle

    Great challenge!! I memorized a ton as a child, but it has seriously fallen to the wayside in the past few years. I appreciate the “jump start” and ideas!
    Another tip my dad taught us was to make up cards with the first letter of each word. It’s a great middle ground way of pushing yourself to remember without reading it, but make sure you’re not missing words. ????

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2015 Christmas Letter

IMG_2299This year we decided that the head of this family should write the Christmas letter. So even though I am only 16 months old, I, Justin, accepted the job. Some of you may be thinking “16 months? What’s he know – maybe 10 words? How interesting is that gonna be?” Well, let me tell you, I may be able to only speak a limited number of words right now, but in writing I have the vocabulary of a brilliant 33 year old. And as far as interesting goes, I’m too young to have inhibitions or know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate, so you should be entertained.

Let me start this letter by telling you about myself. My name is Justin Edwards and I am the youngest of 4 kids. Mommy and Dad just keep getting better and better at this kid-making thing as the quality has improved dramatically with each child (Sorry J-M, I got to be honest). I am a terribly busy man with big plans for this family, so be grateful I am finding time to write this.

I like to read, although most books are too simplistic for me and fail to hold my attention. I play an important job in this home as the chief safety inspector. It’s very time consuming as it involves climbing every possible bench, stool, chair, couch, and ladder and being constantly on the lookout for sharp items, as well as testing choking hazards. This is NOT a safe house. I have fallen countless times and made numerous appeals that go ignored. Sure, they think they’ve got the stools and marbles hidden, but I find them.

It’s also my job to inspect all the bags and containers that come into this house, such as purses and wallets. I’m a little suspicious my parents are doing something illegal because they keep pulling me away. Oh well, that’s what quiet time is for.

Another serious duty I perform is making sure this family doesn’t have more kids anytime soon. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but I keep a close eye on Daddy and Mommy and make sure they don’t have any time alone. This requires a short nap in the evening, but then I’m good till they go sleep. I’d be completely successful if it wasn’t for interfering aunties who take us away and leave Mommy and Daddy unprotected.

I’m not sure why they would want more kids, since I believe I am everything they could want in a child. I’m smart, cuddly, adorable, and for the most part have a sweet disposition. Enough about me (I can’t believe I just wrote that…). Let me tell you about my older siblings. Continue reading…

  • Grandma Wahl

    Justin, do you want to write G’ma & G’pa Wahl’s Christmas letter? We’ll even give you a cookie treat! Ha! We loved the family update and we’re so blessed to watch each little one grow up and discover God’s Word and world. Christmas joy to you all!

  • Rebecca

    Wow. Where do you get such smart kids? Actually, I kind of like mine just the way they are… I don’t think my brain could keep up with such a precocious child!!
    Jesse, my hat is off to you! You did it again. Kept the record of one of my top loved Christmas letters. = )
    Sure love your family…

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The Righteous Quest God Hates

dreamstime_xs_43204263By Jesse Jost

We hate this world’s evil, and hate even more the villains we hold responsible. We may believe that wars and turmoil are sparked by cold, calculating despots who care nothing for right and wrong. But I’m wondering if the most dangerous people in the world are those passionate about the rightness of their cause, willing to lay down their life to impose their vision of the way things should be.

I believe the great disruptors of peace and unity, the real cancers to churches and communities, are not men who have knowingly signed a pact with the devil, but men who believe they have the truth and are crusaders for righteousness. No one thinks he is the problem, or that he is spreading poison. It might be obvious to those around him that he is the divisive man Paul warned to admonish twice, and “then have nothing to do with him.” (Titus 3:10-11)

Yet the man who is stirring up division will believe that he is simply “standing with the truth,” and that he is being “persecuted for righteousness’s sake.” Meanwhile, he has become someone who God hates – one who sows discord among brothers! (Proverbs 6:19) This should sober us all to self-examination. Wouldn’t it be terrifying to discover that the Almighty God of the universe hates what you are doing?

In every conflict and war, there will be opposing sides – people who believe they have truth on their side and that truth is worth dying for. Each side simply can’t fathom the stupidity or ignorance or wickedness of the other. But at least one side is deceived at some level. In your conflicts and crusades, how do you know that you are in cause of Christ? How do you know that you are not the divisive person or the one sowing discord?

How much does God care about unity and peace?

Continue reading…

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The Relentless Love of God

dreamstime_xs_22964162By Jesse Jost

I don’t know about you, but I often doubt that God really loves me. Part of me wonders if the message of God’s love is too good to be true. Maybe it’s just more Joel Osteen syrup lulling me into a sugar coma where I’m safe from the hard truths in scripture about holiness, judgement, and God’s wrath. 

Is it possible to over-proclaim God’s love? Does focusing on God’s unconditional love make us lazy about discipline and obedience? Can we have too high a view of God’s love? Can we conjure a false god who would love us more than the real God does? I don’t think so.

If there is one truth that Satan does not want you to grasp, I believe it is this: God loves you with an overwhelming, steadfast, relentless love. Spiritual problems don’t crop up in our life because we have too exalted a view of God’s love, but because our view is not great enough.

There are two partial views of God’s love that Satan desperately spreads to wreak havoc with your spiritual growth:

  1. God wants you to be good and holy, but His love is contingent on your spiritual performance.
  2. God loves you unconditionally just the way you are, and He’s content to leave you unchanged.

Both partial views make far too little of God’s love and are no threat to Satan’s ultimate goal of destroying your relationship with God.

Some of you have grown up in a legalistic home where God was portrayed as harsh and stern. God only loved you when you were good; He had such ridiculously high expectations that you felt He was always disappointed in you. You are in dire need of seeing the unconditional aspect of God’s love.

But sadly we often exchange one incomplete view of God’s love for another. The Stern Critical Father is replaced with the Infatuated Teenager view of God’s love, where God is “crazy about you” and “obsessed with you.” God loves everything about you just the way you are. Here God’s love is reduced to dreamy infatuation that doesn’t seem to care about your bondage to sin. He’s not bothered by your little failures; He just wants you to know that He loves you.

Both of these views of God’s love are pitifully weak compared to the raging holy passion that the real almighty God of the universe has for you. God loved you while you were dead in sin, an enslaved enemy of God. God loves because He IS love. His nature is to love sacrificially and without end. God can’t NOT love you anymore than God can lie. God loves you just the way you are. But God loves you far too much to leave you broken and enslaved to things that are destroying you! Continue reading…

  • Sara Daigle

    This is a wonderful, wonderful, article. Thank you so much!

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A Message From The Author of Your Faith

dreamstime_xs_23872857Verses compiled, personalized and paraphrased by Jesse Jost

I want you to stop and ponder what amazing love My Father has given you by calling you His children.

Think about it: You were dead in your trespasses and sins, following the course of this world, enslaved to one who hates you, carrying out the evil desires of body and mind. You were foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing your days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. You were by nature children of wrath, enemies of God. But My Father, who is rich in mercy, and because of His great love with which He loves you, even while you were dead in sin, made you alive in Me, and raised you up to be seated in heavenly places, that in you might be displayed His indescribable kindness.

You have been saved by His grace through faith. This is not your doing, but pure gift. You have done nothing to earn this, so don’t boast. You are My workmanship. I created you for good works that were prepared before you were conceived.

You once were nobodies, without mercy and without hope. But now you have been predestined for adoption by the King of Kings. You are in line for an inheritance that you can barely comprehend. This is a sure thing because it’s been promised by My Father who works all things according to the counsel of His will. No purpose of His can be thwarted.

All whom the Father has given Me will come to Me, and I will lose none of you. I am able to save you to the uttermost. I live to make intercession for you.

Don’t think I’m a high Priest who can’t sympathize with your weakness! I was tempted in every respect that you are, I tasted the weakness and the deprivations of life, and through My own death, I destroyed the one who has the power of death: the devil. So come with confidence to My throne and you will receive mercy and grace to help in your time of need.

Be sober-minded, be watchful. Your enemy, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion seeking to devour you. Don’t rely on your strength, and don’t look to your righteousness to be accepted by Me. Don’t boast in your giftings or callings, because they all come from Me. I am the one who is empowering everyone.

Don’t think you can stand on your own. Abide in me. Without Me you can do nothing. I will not let you be tempted beyond what you are able and will always provide a way of escape. Be extra vigilant against pride. Seriously, don’t take pride lightly! My Father opposes the proud person! Reflect on that a minute. You don’t want God against you!

Continue reading…

  • Jackie

    A pastor explaining Eps. 2:1 used the illustration of a body in a graveyard … that that is how “dead” we are, and unable to save ourselves. This article is one of the clearest, most personal and beautiful compilations I’ve ever read. God is certainly using your writing!

  • Jesse

    Thank you so much for writing. It encouraged me today that God is powerful and I want to keep staying close to Him. I found your blog a few years ago and have enjoyed and been blessed by your articles.

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An Often Overlooked Spiritual Cancer

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-man-headache-casual-wearing-blue-tshirt-jeans-dark-background-image31791190By Jesse Jost

What are you frustrated with right now? Is your church spiritually dry and apathetic? Are there people who just don’t understand you and continue to torment you with words of slander? Is your body letting you down with weakness and sickness? Has your vehicle broken down again?

We start each day with different goals and agendas for what we want to accomplish. But usually we don’t get very far into the day before we discover that life has other plans for us. Sickness, injury, red tape, human incompetence, and the internet can each appear as an obstacle to our goals.

The Bible calls these interruptions to our agenda “trials.” We want sleep and the stomach flu leaves its calling card all over our kids’ bathroom. We want to live a sanctified life for God’s glory with a sweet spirit, but tiredness and hormones make the day an emotional struggle. Life with other broken humans means that you can’t get too far down the path before someone does or says something that shatters your peace and tranquility.

When our purposes and plans are derailed, we feel angry and frustrated. We believe we are justified in indulging frustration, because it is, in a twisted way, very ego stroking. When we are frustrated by other people’s stupidity or incompetence, we inwardly delight in our superiority, that were we in their shoes, we would do things better. When we are frustrated by spiritual immaturity, or ineffectiveness in our church body, we believe we are among the truly spiritual ones. When we are frustrated by breakdowns and delays, it is because we believe that our plan for the day is the best and that it is being hindered.

Is frustration a spiritually healthy condition to be in?  Is frustration proof of our righteousness? Is God ever frustrated?

This world is not as it should be. Babies are mutilated and sold for research. Women are raped in the name of religion. We are saddled with corrupt bureaucratic governments, and a society that seems determined to flaunt its self-destructive ways in the face of God. Surely God must be so frustrated with us down here. Right? Well, if by  “frustrated” you mean, “feeling or expressing distress and annoyance, especially because of inability to change or achieve something,” then no. According to the Bible, God cannot be frustrated because “no purpose of His can be thwarted,” (Job 42:2) and God “works all things according to the counsel of His will.” (Eph 1:11)  Continue reading…

  • Timothy

    Doesn’t Jesus have a bit of frustration in his voice when he says things like, “How long will I be among this twisted generation?”

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The Dangers of Sheltering

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-storm-coming-image28589496By Jesse Jost

The day after my first child was born, I strode out of the hospital a new man. I couldn’t believe how different the world looked, and how I felt about it. I was a father. As I carried that little breathing soul carefully to our van, I vowed to do all that I could to protect my son. I drove with utmost care and caution, paranoid of every intersection. A newborn enters a crazy world of dangers. Physical dangers like choking hazards, or metal falling off the semi-truck ahead of you and exploding your vehicle’s gas tank (this actually happened to someone.) But there are also all kinds of spiritual dangers that can lead to heartbreak and despair in this life, and torment in the next.

As new parents hold that tiny, wrinkled form, a protective instinct is awoken that shocks them with its intensity. Parents, of course, have a duty to protect their children. But I am discovering a dangerous lie that can sabotage parents’ efforts to protect their child from evil. The lie: The most dangerous evil your child faces is “out there.” If you can keep your child from evil influences, he will become a good child.

It’s an appealing idea to parents. But the truth is that the most dangerous evil we all face is in our own heart. Jesus warned: “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:20-23)

The seeds for these repulsive characteristics are in your child’s heart from the moment of birth. As a parent, you are powerless to change your child’s heart. It is only God who can grant new birth by the power of His Spirit.

When you live by the lie that your kids will be good if they are protected from evil influences, your attention will focus on guarding against outside sources. Meanwhile, the deadly killer of sin within will fester and grow unnoticed. And because you have protected the outside of your child so well, their externals will probably look reassuringly clean and shiny compared to the dark and dirty world beyond.

Sheltering is a natural greenhouse for pride. The child protected from many temptations that have brought his peers low, can start to take credit for his lack of moral failures. Because he has not been in situations that have shown him his inner brokenness, he will feel morally superior. But pride is as dangerous as any of the evils parents try to protect their children from, perhaps even more so. It says in Proverbs that immorality is a “deep pit. And those that are abhorred by the Lord will fall there.” (Prov. 22:14) What makes this verse chilling is when you combine it with Proverbs 16:5 “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.”

Continue reading…

  • Lee M

    Bang on target, Jesse. One thought I’ve had is that sheltering, taken to the extreme, can rob a young person of the opportunity to develop real internal strength and the ability to stand in the grace of Christ without external supports and restraints – then, when that young person’s external restraints and supports are for one reason or another taken away, they do not have what it takes to resist sin. I like Pastor Eric Lucy’s take on sheltering: the goal of sheltering is to allow necessary time for preparation and growth with the ultimate goal being that of the strength to attend in Christ alone; much like a seedling being started in a greenhouse, then hardened off outside, and finally grown into a tree with the toughness to withstand a hurricane. I hadn’t really thought as much of the pride issue before, though. Your article adds yet another important piece of balance to this controversial issue. Blessings!

  • Risking Our Children | Preserving the Harvest

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Is God the Author of Every Human Life?

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-woman-birth-control-pills-image25835869By Jesse Jost

I want to look briefly at the topic of birth control. I know by bringing this up I am dangerously digging in a minefield of emotions. Many, if not almost all, couples use some form of birth control, and do so for very strongly held reasons.

When it comes to the birth control debate there are so many issues to consider: What is your motivation for having kids? Can you responsibly provide for them? Can you handle another child and still maintain a Christ-like attitude? These are all important questions to ask for most of our choices in life, but with birth control there is a deeper issue to consider first.

This watershed issue must be considered before all else: Is God the author of all human life, or does some life enter the world against God’s wishes? Continue reading…

  • Justin

    I am not sure if this has already been said (there are a lot of comments to read), but could it not be said that you are doubting God’s sovereignty. Is it impossible to make those actively using birth control to become pregnant? Is it impossible for God to make pregnant a virgin? You know that it is not impossible, or you call the bible a liar. For the same reason of God’s control, both sides of this question are applicable.
    I am not angry, I personally have no idea which side of the side of the question is right. I admit I am not married (yet), nor do I have kids, but I am a Christian.
    I personally don’t think this is much of an issue, as long as you have a reason for it that is glorifying to God and not only for selfish reasons.

  • Amber

    Sounds like a lot of readers bring up the call of adoption. Anyone considering adoption but afraid that they cannot afford it should visit reecesrainbow.org and join the Official Reece’s Rainbow group on facebook. There is a HUGE community of support–emotional, financial, even spiritual at times. Some of these children have grants that would be available at the time of travel and that cover most or all of the costs, and there are MANY many others in different countries with smaller grants that can help a family bring them home.

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Breathing Life in the Culture of Death

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-cute-little-girl-bright-face-mask-image47189975By Heidi Jost

            When the first drops of blood fell, I began a journey to life, though I didn’t know it at the time. In the months after my unborn baby slipped out of my body, God showed me something priceless that I had paid lip service to, but my heart was far from believing: life is precious, children are a blessing, and God can be trusted.

Always.

Jesse and I already had the million-dollar family: a boy and a girl. A lot of people commented that we must be done. We joked, “Nah, we’re going for a multi-million dollar family.”

I have wanted every baby that has been conceived in my womb. I just haven’t wanted them to come closer together than two years, afraid I might go crazy or that I might look to others like a run down, exhausted, and overwhelmed rabbit factory who doesn’t “know what causes that.” Fear of having kids close in age infected my thoughts and choices.

Anyway, here I was, pregnant with baby three, who was going to be just over two years younger than its big sister. I felt like I could handle this, and we were excited! In between waves of nausea, that is. When the waves settled early, I was pretty happy. Until the blood dripped and I found out the baby had already died in my womb over a month ago.

We buried baby Davey by my sister’s grave. And I walked out of that cemetery shaken to my core, because I finally realized the truth: All human life is God-given and sacred.

Until Davey died, I think I subconsciously believed that life was only a blessing if it came on my timetable. If my children were born close in age, that was my “mistake,” and they really should not have showed up when they did.

I said the right things on the outside, but inside me there grew a culture of death.

It is in the air we all breathe. This culture of death has great and potent arguments against the Creator of Life: We need to pace ourselves, we need to know our limitations and be wise in how many children we choose to have. We shouldn’t keep on having kids if our motivation is just because we feel pressured to, or because we feel less-than as women unless we are breeding like rabbits.

These arguments take our eyes off the issue at stake: Is all life God-ordained and sacred? No matter when it comes, no matter whether we felt ready for it at the moment or not, no matter how much it will demand from us when it arrives.   Continue reading…

  • Jyl

    Thanks for writing this article Heidi. It covers many things I’ve been thinking through and is an encouragement. When I first got married I was excited to have kids and wanted to surrender my life to God in the area of children. However, His ways are not our ways and his plan was for us not to have kids right away . This was challenging for me to accept at first and I realized I wasn’t fully trusting Him. It took me on a journey of faith and I’ve learned so much. It also gave me a new appreciation of life, realizing every child is a gift and miracle from God. God can be trusted, even though there are many times we don’t understand what He is doing, we can trust He knows best.

  • David

    WOW!

    I love the perspective you have shared here.

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The Spiritual Duty of Enjoyment

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-summer-time-image29181257By Jesse Jost

When I read about the persecuted church or people suffering because they’re deprived of basic needs, I look around at the crazy abundance and health that I enjoy. And I feel guilty. Why was I born into this era and this family? I could have been born in the stench-filled belly of a slave ship, or grown up in daily terror of tribal warfare. I wrestle with what my response should be to this unfair situation. It feels wrong to enjoy comforts and delights in such excess when there are billions living without.

One possible response to this – that honestly turns my stomach and makes me very uncomfortable – is the thought that I should sell all my possessions and give them to the poor (Matt 19:21). Should I sacrifice my every comfort attempting to alleviate as much misery as possible? This is certainly one path that God calls many to. But being a father and husband complicates the issue. First Timothy 5:8 warns that he “who does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (NIV). Yes, I could sell everything but I also have a duty to keep my kids and wife warm, fed, and clothed. There is also the question of education and the protection of their spiritual and emotional well-being. It appears unwise for me, in this stage of life, to uproot them and move them all to a red-light district. But then again the gospel is about risk, sacrifice, and loving Christ above your family.

These are thorny thoughts that I would rather block out of my mind. I feel reluctant to thank God for the gifts he has given because I’m not sure it is right for me to enjoy them. The larger issue, of course, is not “doing what I’m comfortable with,” but living life the way my Creator wants me to. How does He want me to respond to this material abundance? Continue reading…

  • The Spiritual Duty of Enjoyment| Purity and Truth ‹ Refrains of Grace

  • Shannon Strom

    Reading this is God’s way of speaking through you, reminding us to be joyful of what we are blessed with from him and our beautiful spouses, children, relatives and friendship he has blessed us with. We must praise Him and be Thankful for everything we do have, and to help others whenever we can, or to speak of God’s loving words, to those who do not know Him personally. God blessed us with our lives and saved us from all of our sin. He is amazing, and it is amazing to follow Him, praise Him and receive the unconditional love from Him. How lucky are we!!! I love your writing Jesse, every word touches me and I hope you will continue to pass on God’s word.

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