Author Archives: Joey Contreras

Faith & Patience – Serious Busniess

20140630-071551-26151971.jpg From reading the One Year Bible this morning, I was reminded that with God faithfulness & patience are serious business. Just as serious as he is in reprimanding those who aren’t obedient, he is equally as serious in blessing those who are. It doesn’t matter who you are. You will experience a blessing from God by being faithful & patient.

June 24th’s reading plan takes place in 2 Kings 6-7 when: Elisha held the prophetic mantle, Joram was king of Israel, & the nation was at war with Aram. The king was enraged with Elisha, the man of God, for something he did & he wanted his head! From that rage the king robbed himself of God’s blessing by his own unfaithfulness & impatience.

You see, what had happened was… First, God helped Elisha single handedly trap an entire force of Aramean troops. But when Joram, the king of Israel, asked the man of God if he should kill them, Elisha responded with a shocking act of mercy. Elisha told the king to give the Arameans food & drink & send them home. Despite that the king of Aram later mustered his entire army & besieged Samaria, one of King Joram’s major cities. As a result a long & wearisome famine struck the land of Israel.

But one day King Joram had enough; he couldn’t wait another day. To him, this whole situation wouldn’t have happened if Elisha didn’t advise sparing the troops from earlier, right? Read what happens next in 2 Kings 6:31-7:2.

“May God strike me and even kill me if I don’t separate Elisha’s head from his shoulders this very day,” the king vowed. Elisha was sitting in his house with the elders of Israel when the king sent a messenger to summon him. But before the messenger arrived, Elisha said to the elders, “A murderer has sent a man to cut off my head. When he arrives, shut the door and keep him out. We will soon hear his master’s steps following him.” While Elisha was still saying this, the messenger arrived. And the king said, “All this misery is from the Lord! Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?
Elisha replied, “Listen to this message from the Lord! This is what the Lord says: By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, five quarts of choice flour will cost only one piece of silver, and ten quarts of barley grain will cost only one piece of silver.” The officer assisting the king said to the man of God, “That couldn’t happen even if the Lord opened the windows of heaven!”

But Elisha replied, “You will see it happen with your own eyes, but you won’t be able to eat any of it!”

We’ve all been there. We’ve all spouted out the mantra of many impatient men & women before us, “Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” You may be waiting for a spouse; you may be waiting for a job or a promotion; you may be waiting for a family member to know Jesus; you may be waiting for the bus, I don’t know. Whatever it is, I encourage you to take it a day at a time. God has called all his children to be faithful & patient. These are indispensable Christian virtues. When we choose to rob ourselves of the blessing of obedience, life has a way of taking a turn for the worse.

With God, having faith is serious business. He sees the victory you’ve been waiting for & it’s right around the corner – I’m telling you! Instead of being like King Joram & robbing yourself just one day shy of a long awaited victory, have faith & be patient. Your breakthrough could literally come tomorrow. Heck, why not today?

Trusting in all of God’s promises is itself an act of faith. Maybe God is calling you to take a step of faith right now. Sometimes our call to action means waiting patiently & remaining faithful day to day. Your day to day living-for-the-Lord never goes to waste (1 Corinthians 15:58). Besides, it’s not even worth finding out what the alternatives are. For example, Elisha said the king wasn’t going to eat anything from the Samaritan market because he couldn’t wait one more day – that came true just a few verses later. In fact, it also says he got trampled to death, but we can just say he “went to sleep hungry.”

Warmly,

Joey C.

Dear Brother

Dear Brother

Dear Brother,

Despite my passion for writing, thinking of your letter was more challenging than I thought it would be. So, I’m just going to share what God is teaching me right now. I hope it blesses & sharpens you as it has me.

1) Seek wisdom daily. God delights in that. Remember when Solomon prayed for wisdom? He didn’t ask for favor or prosperity or a long life, instead he asked for wisdom to lead his people. Keep in mind, God said he would give Solomon anything he wanted.  But God in his generosity gave him wisdom AND everything he didn’t ask for. (1 Kings 3)

James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, & he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” 1 John 5:14-15 says, “ And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” Praying for wisdom is always in alignment with God’s will. So why not pray for wisdom everyday?

2) Sometimes the most impactful life lessons are the most basic. Wouldn’t you agree? The idea of “spending time” with Jesus is conceptually basic because in that way it’s much like any other relationship we have, yet it can be the most underappreciated part of our whole lives. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we see him for who he really is. If we already trust him completely as our Savior, why do we keep stunting our openness to his leadership. But when we relinquish our will in exchange for his, Jesus becomes our Ultimate Leader. He’s trustworthy. Hence, we become even more obedient.

Obedience begets knowledge, not the other way around. In other words, when we become aware of a truth, obedience doesn’t necessarily follow. But when we become obedient to Jesus’ teachings, you are guaranteed deeper knowledge of our Savior. We grow as Christians the more we obey, & the more we obey the more familiar we become of our Lord & his ways.

Knowledge begets freedom. The more we know of Jesus the more free we are to worship. The more free we are to just be ourselves! And the more free we are to do a lot of things. We definitely become more & more free from the influence of sin. Thank God!

Recap:
Pray for wisdom daily. It’s always in alignment with God’s will.

Your life will radically change once you see Jesus for who he really is.

True understanding begins when you’re practicing obedience.

To understand God’s will is to abandon yours.

Obedience begets knowledge. And knowledge begets freedom.

Your loving brother,

Joey C.

John 3:30

Determined

20140314-000929.jpg
[The Israelites] will be crushed and broken by my judgment
because they are determined to worship idols.
(Hosea 5:11 NLT)

To be determined… What does that mean to you? It’s defined as having made a firm decision and being resolved not to change it. Sounds nice. What are you determined in?

Surely, we have all found ourselves determined in something. Whether that be a sport, your marriage, staying pure, seeking revenge maybe(?), or even passing that darn level on Candy Crush! As you reflect, perhaps some were really noble. Perhaps some pursuits ended up being totally destructive – which maybe you didn’t find out until after the fact. It’s one thing to be unaware of the damage, & quite another to be fully mindful.

One of the most destructive things you can do to yourself is intentionally sin. It’s when you know (without a shadow of a doubt) that what you’re determined to do is wrong, but you do it anyway. I’ve been there. But we must caution ourselves. The more we intentionally sin, the more spiritually numb & insensitive we get to God’s truth. There begins this emotional hardening that breeds calloused indifference. That’s where the danger lies. And that’s exactly where those Israelites ^ found themselves. But rest assured, you’re in great company!

One time, Jesus encountered a woman who was caught in adultery (the law of Moses says to stone anyone caught in adultery). The teachers of religious law presented this woman before a crowd of fervent, misled Jews demanding an answer from Jesus on her verdict. As they poised the stones in their hands, this dark cloud of determination lurked over them. Although the religious leaders’ intentions were to trap Jesus, he wisely combats their hypocrisy & famously said, “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Basically Jesus punked everyone, but he showed grace to the woman. The crowd of accusers eventually all dropped their stones & left one by one. Jesus said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you? …I don’t. Go & sin no more.” (John 8:10-11 NLT, writers rendition)

Carefully determine what pleases the Lord (Ephesians 5:10).

Truth be told. God hates sin, especially intentional, deliberate sin. But there is grace. Be determined to do the right things, & don’t let you’re pursuits cloud your judgement & turn you into an angry mob. If you’ve messed up (like we all have) don’t wallow in your guilt either & stay there for extensive periods of time as it may be tempting. In part, that was the advice Jesus gave to the woman – repent & move on! God wants you to move forward. And know where sin’s rightful place is in your life. For that which we have dominion over, God grants us the power to overcome. All the time, every time.

Warmly,
Joey C.

Romans 6:12

Loneliness

20140225-234814.jpg

I am a Christian, & I hold true that my body is the dwelling place of the ultimate counselor & comforter. Yet, I know Christians that still feel totally lonely & abandoned.

How can someone truly believe in the first statement, yet feel the latter? This doesn’t make sense to me.

Question: Are you lonely? Do you long for a companion? Has someone rejected you? Do these questions sound like the beginning to an eHarmony commercial??

Seriously though, we’ve all felt it – rejection. Whether it be by a close friend, a parent, a child, a wife/girlfriend, or a husband/boyfriend. The greatest man who has had the greatest impact in human history was abandoned & rejected. He was abandoned by God himself when he died a criminal’s death all so that we wouldn’t have to be.

Call me crazy (I’ve been called worse), but I find comfort in times when I feel lonely & rejected. Why? Usually not at first, but I know that I am personally relating to that great man I was talking about earlier – Jesus. One of his closest friends betrayed him. His right hand man decided to deny that he even knew Jesus when he needed him the most. “And the rest of his crew bounced too – left him hanging. Literally. Pitifully. Flesh dangling.” -Shai Linne

Maybe all those times I’ve felt lonely or rejected was to relate to you, my reader. Thanks by the way! Maybe all that was for me to tell you that you’re in the greatest company in the world! If there’s one thing that all lonely people have in common, it’s that they’ve all felt alone. When you look at it that way, us lonely rejects can be a very strong community. And when we gather that label ceases to exist. We can call ourselves The Lone Rangers!

Caution: Sometimes we want to fill that hole in our hearts with things that aren’t good for us. Sometimes we don’t even know that they’re bad. But I implore you to seek community. You will get through this! You’re not a hopeless cause. But sometimes, the only solution is to have hope in your situation.

If you don’t know Jesus, frankly, you’re fighting an uphill battle. Outside of him there is no hope. Don’t let your situation go to waste; seek first community with the Ultimate Counselor & Comforter.

Christians, your situation will not go to waste. “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28)

Warmly,
Joey C.

Critical Life Decisions

Critical Life Decisions JRR

I cannot even begin to tell you what your life is going to look like. I mean who the heck am I? I’m just some guy who wrote a blog that you’re reading. Thanks, by the way.

I do know however that our lives have meaning. You & I are indeed serving a purpose on this rock. Good or bad; aware or oblivious. Your family, friends, coworkers, & even that homeless guy you pass every now & then all have a purpose. But what is our purpose & how does one go about finding it? That leads me to my next question…

What are you doing with your life?

This question dominates the minds of young adults. I have to admit, that question is daunting to me at times. Here I am, a twenty something with my whole life ahead of me. What to do, what to do… Decisions, decisions… Briefly think of some elderly people you know. Most of them speak primarily of their past don’t they? Well, that’s because the majority of their “timeline” is their past. See, the timeline of a young adult, like me, is mostly their future.

Allow me to talk about my future for a brief moment. Bear with me, because I think you’ll find value. I distinctively remember that moment when I discovered my purpose – the reason why I was created. Truly, it was an amazing thing. It was on a Wednesday at a Starbucks, & I was with a good friend. I even remember that we sat on the two brown couches to the right of the entrance. (People who know me say I typically don’t remember anything of detail.  But I do. I remember important things, like couches.) Long story short, my friend asked me all the right questions at just the right time. Probing me. Kindling a wildfire in my heart. I realized I didn’t really discover anything new that day. Rather, my deepest passions were awakened. It was like someone literally flicked on the light switch.

I’d like to provide some thought provoking questions that could help you brush away the unwanted or distracting fluff that’s covering your next step in discovering your purpose. You should definitely ask yourself and reflect (however long it takes) on these:
-what am I most passionate about?
-is it physically possible to do?
-really, what’s stopping me from doing it?
-am I short changing or limiting myself? why?
-is it moral? honorable?
-what skills am I lacking?
-what resources am I lacking?
-what kind of time commitment is this going to require from me?
-how can I pursue this while maintaining my current responsibilities?

One very important thing to keep in mind is if you’re precious little heart burns for something without the capacity of sustaining your life, you can start your purpose “part-time” for a little while. Or use this time of preparation to build a foundation you can rest on. Start small, think BIG.  Don’t short change yourself into an unfulfilling life. Settling will suffocate your soul. Go have, what I like to call, a coffee shop talk with a good friend.

All the Best,
Joey C.

Romans 12:1-2