In the Far East the Asian people plant a tree known as the Chinese Bamboo. During the first four years they water and fertilize the plant despite seeing little or no results. Then during the fifth year, they again water and fertilize the tree – and in five weeks’ time the tree grows ninety feet! The obvious question to ask is: Did the Chinese bamboo tree grow ninety feet in five weeks, or did it grow ninety feet in five years? The answer is: It grew ninety feet in five years. You see, if at any time during those five years the people would have stopped watering and fertilizing the tree, it would have died.
Many times our dreams and plans appear as if they are going nowhere, and we are tempted to give up and quit trying. But on the contrary, we must keep watering and fertilizing those dreams and plans God’s placed inside us. Because we know that if we do not quit, if we show perseverance and endurance, we will also reap a harvest.
As we enter into this exciting new year, take this story, and implement it into your ministry team, your community group, or your own walk with Christ. Remember that outward results may or may not accurately reflect inward realities. Don’t forget that small acts of kindness, often reap huge dividends even if you don’t immediately see the effect. Galatians 6:9 says “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ.”) Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”) John 1:40-42 (NLT)
I remember many years ago when I was in high school I had several friends who went to this crazy big youth group called Cross Current. At that time, I sporadically attended church with my parents, but these guys from my school kept asking me over and over to go with them. They talked about how awesome it was, and how much fun I would have. I wondered what all the “hype” was about. It wasn’t until several years later that I eventually showed up to a camp that they were hosting. It was on that trip, one night down in front of a stage, I went from knowing about God, to actually encountering Him… and it changed my life forever. I still remember all of those guys hands on my back praying for me as I knelt there on the concrete floor. I remember standing up and hugging these incredible guys, and being so grateful that they cared enough to keep inviting me.
I think it’s easy to sometimes underestimate the power of inviting. In John 1 it describes a scene where this guy named Andrew meets Jesus and it impacts his life so much that he decides to leave everything and follow Him. He becomes a follower of Jesus. The very next thing he does is run and find his brother named Simon, and invited him to come with him to meet Jesus. Simon’s encounter with Jesus not only changes his life, but also his name… from Simon to Peter (the Rock) foreshadowing his role in the launching of the church.
The Bible doesn’t dive into depth into Andrew’s life, but many people are familiar with Peter. He’s the guy that stood up at the beginning of Acts and preached and at least 3,000 people (possibly double or triple that as they only counted men at that time) committed their lives to Christ. Imagine how proud Andrew must have been. As Peter was speaking to the crowd, I wonder if Andrew’s thoughts wandered back to that day he brought him to meet Jesus… and how that encounter changed both of their lives… and so many others.
You might not be called to get up in front of thousands of people and preach, but we have all been commissioned to bring people to meet Jesus. Who knows, your simple invitation could change the course of history.
Action Step: Take a minute right now and pray and ask God to show you who in your life you could invite to church to meet Jesus this week.
Connect with Mark at http://about.me/marksbell
There are places where forests, rivers, cliffs, and oceans are put in a blender and made into smoothies of visual goodness. Where the hardworking maritime ocean ethos grounds people. The tip of the hat as you walk through town. The soul of places like this renews your own and makes you wonder how in the world people end up in track homes on crowded streets paying HOA dues and driving monster trucks marketed to the masses as man-mobiles. Go figure.
3 flights. 1 Ferry. 8 hours on a bus will get you there. The Northwest tip of Vancouver Island in BC Canada. This was the start of what ended up being a big adventure. I traveled through 10 countries over the span of a year on my Dad’s 1978 Schwinn Volare Steel framed 10 speed bicycle.
Its often hard to wonder what life will be like if we start something new. The anxiety we feel as we ride down a road we haven’t been down before causes us stress.
Following Jesus is full of times when we begin riding down new roads. The roads we have been on are leading nowhere and we need to start down a new one. We need to stop doing certain things. Things that are self-destructive. Things that don’t help others or us. Things that are a waste of time.
I was in Grad School studying Clinical Counseling at Ashland Seminary when it occurred to me that people never stop doing things. THEY START NEW THINGS.
Paul said “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
So the best way to stop doing something is to start doing something. Instead of cussing with your mouth you start being encouraging with it. Instead of being selfish with your time you start serving with your time. Instead of spending all your money on yourself you start tithing and buying people lunch. Instead of eating Doritos you start drinking a gallon of water. Etc, Etc. You replace the activity/habit you want to change with a new activity/habit you desire. You take it one day at a time and you work on it.
It feels weird at first. When we workout we often suffer from D.O.M.S. Delayed onset muscle soreness. It occurs 48-72 hours after the activity. This is the blowback our muscles feel when we do a new exercise we haven’t done in a long time or maybe ever.
It feels weird and its hurts and it takes a while to recover because it the first time we experience it.
It’s the same way spiritually. The first few times we start a new approach or behavior it’s going to feel weird. WEIRD IS NORMAL. The first time you volunteer at church on Sunday, host a small group, or start an outreach ministry you wonder why it’s so exhausting. It takes time for spiritual muscles to develop.
It’s supposed to feel weird. It’s totally normal for it to feel weird. After a few times you get used to it. It becomes part of your life. After a period of time you end up being somebody you never thought you could be because of a habit you started. You fought through the initially awkward start up stage where your equilibrium is off.
The next time you feel out of place at an event or in a new ministry or in a small group tell the people you introduce yourself to that although your there it feels weird and you are there because your trying to move forward with your life and do the right thing. This disarms people and reminds them we are all the same and are trying to do our best to become like Christ.
2. Barwick, Nick, Clinical Counseling in schools 2000 ISBN:0-415-20516-6, 978-0-415-20516-0 Routledge Publishing
3. NIV 1984
4. Cheung, K., Hume, P. A., & Maxwell, L. (2003). Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: Treatment Strategies and Performance Factors. Sports Medicine, 33(2), 145-164.
 Barwick, Nick, Clinical Counseling in schools 2000
 NIV 1984 Romans 7:24-25
 Cheung, K., Hume, P. A., & Maxwell, L. (2003)
*Written By Ryan Delamater, Rock Student Ministries Small Group Coord. You can read more about his travels at www.ride4water.com
My 11-month old son has a bunch of toys he likes to play with… but his favorite one is a box with different shaped blocks in it. It has a top that has holes in the shape of each of the different blocks. The object is to match the blocks with the shapes. He is “all boy” because he will take those blocks and start to bang them into the different holes. He’ll take the square block and hit it in the circle hole. After a while he gets frustrated because they aren’t going in…
And sometimes he’ll start to cry…
Because they just don’t seem to fit.
There’s a story in the Bible about a young guy who had a lot of money. And one day he came running up to Jesus and asked him what he needed to do to have eternal life.
As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’” “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. -Mark 10:17-22
This young man in the Bible was hungry to connect with God… he came running to Jesus. And he was apparently doing a lot of “religious stuff.” Probably showing up to church every week… holding up his Bible and saying “Wooord.” He seemed to be desperately trying to fill that gnawing sense of emptiness in his heart. I love how Jesus looked at him, and “felt genuine love for him.” No matter where you are at on your journey, God genuinely loves you! No matter what has happened in your life … no matter what you’ve done… GOD LOVES YOU!
Then Jesus calls the guy out… totally “reading his mail” and asking him to sell everything. Jesus knew that this was the biggest thing that this young guy was using to try and fill the void in his life. He felt money, and the security found in it, could satisfy him.
But it cant…
except for God.
Just like my son’s toy, each one of us has been created with a God shaped hole inside of our lives. It’s a void that nothing else can fill but Him. We can try to cram other things in that space, like money, relationships, even religion… but we will only be left frustrated and empty.
There is another story in the Bible about a woman who was trying to fill that space in her life with lots and lots of relationships. When she encountered Jesus, He told her that only He could give her what she was really thirsting for…
“Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” –John 4:13-14
Jesus used a metaphor of thirsting for water that will satisfy. The woman was talking about physical thirst, while Jesus saw something deeper… The spiritual thirst she had in her heart. A thirst that only a relationship with God will fulfill.
What are your blocks? What are those things that you are trying to stuff in that empty space in your heart? I want to encourage you today to surrender your life completely to God. Stop trying to cram the round block into the square hole. Invite Jesus into that void in your heart.
As I was journaling recently I began to reflect on Luke 17:12-19…
As [Jesus] entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
During this time period in history these 10 lepers would have been completely ostracized by their families and community. Their debilitating disease completely ravaged their lives and their ONLY hope was for Jesus to heal them. They desperately cried out to Him, pleading that He would intervene on their behalf, and when He did, answering their prayers, they all simply went on with their lives.
I feel like it’s so easy to be like that in life and in ministry. We pray and pray asking God to show up and do big things in our lives and ministries, and when he does, we move on to the next thing. We forget to slow down and process what God has done. We miss out on the joy of living in moments of thanksgiving and gratefulness.
Today, during this season, I choose to take a moment to thank God. To thank Him for an amazing opportunity to live out my passion… To be in the place I’m in, at this exact moment in history. I’m so grateful to be surrounded by the amazing leaders and staff that God has brought together for such a time as this. I’m so thankful for how God is moving in the lives of the jr high and high school students I’m honored to work with… I’m so inspired to see their passion, and hunger to know Him and make Him known. I’m so thankful for the hundreds of students who are stepping up every week to make an impact at their schools all across San Diego.
Two weeks ago the students in TWELVE (our discipleship program) went on a trip to West Virginia and did school assemblies in a town of approx. 2,500 people. At the end of the week they held a large outreach and over 400 young people showed up and 146 students committed their lives to Christ! We were all praying that people would show up and that lives would forever be changed. I’m blown away and thankful for all those who committed their lives to Christ… that the life transforming power of God swept through that small town that will never be the same because of Jesus.
One of the young people who came to the outreach wrote on Facebook: “Yesterday you inspired me and now Jesus is in my life and always will be ♥ Thank you:) ~Cara
Thank you Jesus that we get to be a part of impacting people’s lives for eternity!
I want to encourage you to take a moment to reflect on God’s goodness today and thank Him for Who He is and what He has done in you and through your life. Let’s begin to cultivate a heart like the one leper that returned.
For more info on student ministries at the Rock go to www.sdrock.com/students