Three reasons to sacrifice for your passion [PART 4/4]

This is part 4 out of 4 from a sermon Justin recently gave. It’s his hope that through posting it to our blog you might be challenged and encouraged in your daily walk with the Lord to follow your God given passions!

Next time your God given passion leads you into a trial, or it proposes a sacrifice, remember these three verses.

Sacrifice helps keep us grounded in God for support while we pursue our God given passions.

The first is in James 1:2-4
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Let your sacrifice keep you grounded in God for support while you pursue your God given passions. If you’ve been called to a passion that is obviously too big for you, making sacrifices and trusting in your passion provider will remind you He’s in control… and on the opposite side of that, if you’re at the top of your game, staying faithful and making sacrifices forces you to trust God instead of leaning on your own talent.

Sacrifice is a means of thankfulness to our passion giver. 

Hebrews 13:15-16
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
  Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

When we profess our thankfulness to our God we make God great, but just as the old adage goes, actions can speak louder than words. So, give thanks! After all, your God given passion is a gift. Giving sacrificial thanks through selfless acts allows us to set ourselves apart from the rest of the world.

Sacrifice, and therefore suffering, produces hope and endurance.

Roman 5:3-5
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 
 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Through sacrifice we can rejoice, because we know it produces hope and endurance. Anyone that is willing to put in the hours, get through the learning curve, and take on a new skill will be more hopeful and patient as they progress through their passion. The same is true of our faith, and pursuit of our God given passions. If you want to see God work through you and your passions, then start now and lean into God! You won’t accomplish anything if you do not start.

You are never too old or young to do this. The passion to tell stories has been part of me for ten years now, but only in the last two years have I learned to discern God’s calling for this gift that he’s given me.

Passion requires sacrifice [PART 3/4]

This is part 3 out of 4 from a sermon Justin recently gave. It’s his hope that through posting it to our blog you might be challenged and encouraged in your daily walk with the Lord to follow your God given passions!

Shaquel O’Niel is a basketball player I’m sure many of you are familiar with. He played ball for several different teams in the NBA for eighteen years. Having retired he got into the sports announcing game. I won’t debate whether or not he’s a great announcer or not, but he brings a lot of input to the table when talking about the game of basketball. Recently during a halftime analysis show, Shaq took out his foot for the world to see what eighteen years of playing professional basketball does to your feet. Needless to say it didn’t look great. But for Shaq, it was worth it. This was a small sacrifice that led him in his passion to be the best basketball player he could be.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone that has pursued their passion and desires and not made sacrifices. I wonder how many of the parents in this room made financial sacrifices for their children. How many students in this room have sacrificed their desires to socialize to study a little more for their test? Flip that around, how many students sacrificed their test scores to pursue their desires with their friends? When my family moved to Taiwan we knew we wanted to be able to have individuals live in our home with us. We wanted to create a safe place for people. Because of this desire to host others my wife and I made a sacrifice we weren’t particularly looking forward to.

Before moving, Brittany and I had gotten pretty good at putting my daughter, Kennedy, to bed in her own room at night. In fact, when she was two she was even putting herself to bed. It was amazing… but we knew that having extra people in our home meant we might not be able to give Kennedy her own room. So, for the last two and a half years Kennedy has slept in our bedroom. It’s not a huge inconvenience, and actually for Eastern cultures and high density cities it’s not that uncommon, but for us it represented a sacrifice we had to make in order to pursue God’s use of us in Taiwan.

Passion requires sacrifice. In fact, our English word for passion comes from the latin root word passio, which means to suffer.

We see this in God’s passion for his people. All the way back to the garden, in the beginning of the book of Genesis we see that God sacrificed an animal to clothe Adam and Eve so they would not be ashamed. This persisted until God made the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus Christ. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. Christ was the ultimate sacrifice because of God’s deep desire to reunite us with himself.

Passions are a gift from God [PART 2/4]

This is part 2 out of 4 from a sermon Justin recently gave. It’s his hope that through posting it to our blog you might be challenged and encouraged in your daily walk with the Lord to follow your God given passions!

If we believe what Galatians tells us in chapter 5 verse 17, then the desires of the Holy Spirit are to oppose the flesh. My prayer for you today is that you would be encouraged to walk in your God given passions and desires. These look like passions and desires rooted in love. We see that in verse 22. The first fruit of the Spirit is love and each fruit that follows that comes from love.

Passions are a gift from God

So let’s look at our passions from which we experience the fruit of the Spirit. When we remember James 1:17 which says, “Every good gift and ever perfect gift is from above…” we can know that any passion, any desire, that is full of love must be good and so is a gift from God. Your passions, your desires that produce good fruit, they’re a gift from God. Are you pursuing them?

Let me get real with you; Before moving to Taiwan I worked in marketing. I loved it. I created video and radio commercials for casinos and non profits, home builders and food creators. It was a career that allowed me to pour out my creativity and had quite a bit of diverse work… For quite some time my passion has been in telling good stories. I love film and video and take any chance I can get to try my hand at visual story telling. This job was great for me! Too often though, the videos I made ended up producing the wrong fruit. Even though I had the best of intentions, I pulled others down to do the work. I became prideful thinking I could do it better than others… and I can’t count the number of times I became envy over other’s tools. Just ask my wife how many times I’ve asked her if I can buy a new camera.

There’s a real tension here. Verse 17 lays it out. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

The beauty of it is this though. God puts this tension in place to push us closer towards him. By keeping us from doing what we want to do, despite our best intentions, he steers us towards his will. God gives us our gifts, these passions and desires, and uses them in our lives to fulfill his will.

God took the passion for one job and placed it elsewhere. I still wanted to work in film and video, but God had plans for me elsewhere. I knew what my passion was, and as my wife and I prayed through different opportunities, God showed us Taiwan. That’s when I had to make a choice, choose to trust the Spirit and trust God’s plan for my passions and desires or try to fulfill them myself. For better or worse, a sacrifice would have to be made. Either I give up and my own desires and trust, or I give up what the Spirit has for me and miss out on whatever blessings were in store for me.

A Spirit of Communication

Today I woke up early to Skype with one of my guys back in Taiwan. I use the term my guys for a small handful of men that I’ve dedicated myself to pouring into. Yet, we didn’t actually talk because we’d confused timezones. I was actually a day early. Not a bad problem to have, but it got me thinking about other miscommunications I’d been responsible for , or at very least, taken part in.

Since being in America, we’ve begun to feel a little out of the the loop with everyone at the Aroma. It’s talking to friends and speaking at churches about what the Aroma is about, yet not having as much do with what’s being done in that moment.

If you can imagine yourself in a similar situation, now imagine that same scenario in a completely different language. The struggle is real. Even in our own language we often have trouble communicating with people, so much so that people write books and attend seminars just to figure out how to speak words with each other.

While books and seminars are great, thank goodness we as Christians have been given the Holy Spirit to help us communicate. Whether you’ve thought about it or not, the Holy Spirit effects all areas of our life and that includes how we interact with those around us.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Thank you, Father, for giving us the Holy Spirit to help us communicate with the people around us. Would you give us your eyes for the people we interact with. Soften our hearts and give us a supernatural dose of your mercy and grace as we deal with others who aren’t perfect; just like us!

Amen!

Ephesians 4:25-29
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Passions & Sacrifice [PART 1/4]

This is part 1 out of 4 from a sermon Justin recently gave. It’s his hope that through posting it to our blog you might be challenged and encouraged in your daily walk with the Lord to follow your God given passions!

As a teen I had many desires and passions,
but one of them was to play bass guitar in a famous band. My sophomore year of college I finally found others that I enjoyed jamming with and they had similar tastes in music. We spent many long hours practicing and averaged three hour practices, every other day, while juggling part time jobs and full time studying… but for our four piece band it was totally worth it. We recorded a handful of demos, played a handful of gigs and loved what we were doing. However, eventually one of our guitar players decided he wanted to invest more time in his passion for the law and becoming a lawyer. This led to a slow and difficult breakup… And as silly as it seems, I was pretty bitter for a long time too.

When I look at Galatians it becomes clear that the fruits of my passion were not good ones.


Galatians 5:16-25 (ESV)
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.


I tell you my college story because it’s not that original. In fact, my father went through a somewhat similar experience. Some of you might relate well, some may not… but all of you have at one time had a passion or desire that was rooted in the flesh. They’re easy to spot when we hold them up to this text. Think about something you’re excited about, or have an intense enthusiasm for… Got it? Now think about it’s effect on your life. Be honest. What comes from it? Impurity? Anger? Jealousy? Perhaps division between you and your significant other, your boss, your friends? Or rather does your enthusiasm, your excitement, for this something bring you love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control?

There are good and bad passions. As Christians we’ve been given new hearts and so those old passions we cling to, they don’t belong with us!
So…
Which one are yours?

From bad to worse, then back to good

I’ve actually been waiting to post a blog of this sort. They say you can’t tell a good story without some sort of trial or tragedy. Today was definitely both. I often feel our blogs don’t include enough of this to form a compelling story so here’s today’s… 

The day started at 5:30AM when I awoke just in time to witness my daughter expel the contents of her stomach through her mouth and onto the floor. Great.

I actually felt bad for her. I wasn’t mad or frustrated, just sad. Today was supposed to be our Sabbath day. A day to relax, appreciate and worship our Provider, and enjoy each other’s company…  and today we were going to Disneyland. Now I’ve never been to Disneyland and neither has my daughter, but it didn’t help that I’d hyped it up for most of the day before. Bummer.

What really got to me though, was how this change of schedule effected the rest of my week. No Disney meant it would be rescheduled to another day which then shifts everything else. Today was supposed to be a day of rest. I needed it too! The day before Brittany and I had a few tough conversations designed to really stretch us and I needed time to rejuvenate. Not to mention, I’d taken my computer in to be serviced the day before. My plan had been to pick it up the day after Disney. Ugh.

My family quickly put a plan together to reschedule, but it conflicts with another engagement I’d made. All of this combined with no morning caffeine was enough to put me over the edge. I grabbed a notebook, pencil, and some headphones and drove off to a coffee shop, all while still being quite annoyed.

God’s will is always, and I repeat; ALWAYS, better than ours though. I was reminded of this in the car as I drove off. This song began to play (emphasis added);

Verse
In the pouring rain
I will be the same
When you’re wandering
You and I will still remain
You’ll run and hide
Deep in the night
Give up the fight
I am ALWAYS on your side
Hook
I am enough, always enough
You are enough, precious and loved
Morning will come, sure as the Son
I am enough, you are enough
You are enough

 

These simple words changed my day. What in the past could have easily ruined an entire 24 hours had now drawn me closer to my Savior in about two. When I arrived at my destination I’d already experienced a heart change. It was reinforced as my daily reading brought up 2 Samuel 22:2-4, King David’s song of deliverance. So today, it became mine too.

 

 

 

764 Days

Until last Wednesday, I had not been in the United States for 764 days, or 2 years, 1 month and 2 days. It’s been a long time! I wasn’t sure what to expect. I still haven’t had time to fully process it all, so that might be a blog post for another time. It’s been crazy to say the least.

The last few days have been a whirlwind. Due to a death in the family, we needed to get to Sioux Falls quickly. Wednesday morning we arrived in LA just before noon. We enjoyed lunch with Justin’s aunt and uncle, then spent the rest of the day hanging out at their house and getting ready to go to South Dakota. We woke up early on Thursday and were on the road to Las Vegas by about 7. From there, we took a flight to Sioux Falls. By about 8 p.m. CST we had made it. We were able to visit with a lot of family before heading to bed. All three of us were pretty exhausted from all the traveling and the vast mix of emotions.

Are you tracking? Within two days we had been in 2 countries (3 if you count our layover in Japan), 3 states, and 4 different time zones. We had no idea what time it was!


Right now, Justin and I have been visiting with family and trying to help out as much as possible.

We will be in Sioux Falls until Thursday, September 7, then we’ll go back to California for a few engagements we have set up there. The first church we are speaking at is on September 9 in San Diego – Taiwanese Lutheran Church – so you can certainly be praying for that! We are excited to visit friends we have in the area and really begin fundraising.

We are currently 25% funded. We have complete faith we will reach 100% by the end of our time in the States. We know God has already picked out our support team and will put them in our path at some point during this trip – are you one of them? If you would like to support us financially, please visit our Give page.