“Some Great Thing”

During my 3+ years of campus ministry at both Cerritos College and Antelope Valley College, I’ve come across a common response that has often broken my heart. 

“Do I really have to follow what the Bible says?”

Growing up, I never could’ve imagined that people could think they were following God while completely disregarding his commands. However, this is the state of most people who call themselves christians. If I’d actually counted all the women I’ve studied the Bible with, I’m sure it would be in the hundreds, but I can name every one of the few that actually followed through with obeying Gods call in their life. 

Even inside of a group of people who are following God, it’s so easy to find myself and others not wanting to do the simplest things. Even if you’re reading this post, I’m sure at some point this week you struggled to wake up early enough to have time with God that morning, or brushed it off completely. Yet, I’m sure many of the people in the world who wouldn’t pick up a bible, read and follow it would tell you that they’d die for their faith. 

My only question is; why?

Why is it so much easier to die for something than to live for it?
This evening I found myself reading 2 Kings. One of my favorite passages highlights this very question. 

During the time of the prophet Elisha and the king of Israel Joram, an army commander for the king ofAram was stricken with leprosy. Despite this terrible disease, he had many great victories. 2 Kings 5 highlights his story, as he finds out about a prophet in Samaria that could heal his leprosy. However, when he comes to Elisha, he is less than pleased with the direction he’s given. 

2 Kings 5:10-14 “Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.”

Following the response of many, Naaman, the commander was appalled by the prophet’s simple instructions. He had hoped for an immediate, flashy miracle, but that is not what God gave him. (There is so much incredible symbolism in Elisha’s command – but I will save that for another day) He wanted something easy, dramatic and on his terms. 

However, the voice of reason in this passage comes from his servants; “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?”  

Wow. 

How many times do we neglect to follow the simplest instructions in the Bible, yet claim that we would give up our lives for the gospel. My dear friend, giving up your life is most useful and honorable while you are still alive. 

As Naaman’s servant said; “How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!”

So I leave you with the same reflection I hold in my own hearts. What simple commands of God are you not following because you don’t think they’re great enough for you, or you’re embarrassed because you don’t want other people to know you haven’t been following them?

Think about it, and then change it. If you need any help with this, I’d be more than happy to talk about it further or direct you to someone who is in your area. 

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

To God be the glory,

Tori Lynn Cortez

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Advice is NOT “Just Advice”

Let me begin this by saying something;

I. AM. PRIDEFUL.

 

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“How beautiful are the feet…” (Taken during one of the Campus Bible Studies this week)

 

In my sinful nature, I hate the concept of advice. It makes me feel uncomfortable and inadequate to make my own decisions. My struggle with pride often comes in the form of insecurities such as;

If I ask advice about this, she’ll think I’m stupid for not knowing the answer on my own.

And so forth. However, I can also struggle with the pride of thinking that I don’t need advice and not wanting to hear it when I don’t ask for it. I’ve heard a phrase amongst disciples that really inflated this way of thinking in me, but we’ve got to put it to death.

“Advise is just advice. You don’t have to take it.”

While yes, this is true in some circumstances, it is a dangerous way to move forward in your walk with God. Let me show you why. There was once this King in Judah named Amaziah. He was known as a king that “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly.” Ouch. Anyway, he did some pretty incredible things, even to the point of letting go of a hundred thousand fighting men from Israel because he was told that they didn’t honor God. That takes a huge amount of faith. Yet, he had a huge downfall of worshipping idols later on.

2 Chronicles 25:16 While he was still speaking, the king said to him, “Have we appointed you an adviser to the king? Stop! Why be struck down?”

So the prophet stopped but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.”

Wow. This is a super convicting passage. No matter how many times I read it, it carries the same weight in my life. Godly advice is super important, and I must say that I’m incredibly grateful for Shauna Inkley being in my life to help advise me in a godly way. I’m still learning how to take and seek advice myself, but the Bible is pretty clear about how important advice is.

Another area of advice we can struggle in is when we don’t hear the advice that we want. Well, for that we would have to go back to 1 Kings. Check this out;

1 Kings 12:6-11  Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.

They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”

But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?”

The young men who had grown up with him replied, “These people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’”

Because of his failure to listen to wise advice, a split was caused in Israel, his chief of labor was stoned by the people, and Israel was no longer loyal to him. This is the danger of seeking out ONLY the advice we want to hear. Sure, it can be hard to take the advice that you don’t like, but if you value your walk with God, your ministry, and your relationships, you should also value the godly advice that you’re given!

Proverbs 12:15 The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a hard time asking for and taking advice but I’m fighting to train myself to not only take it but to desire it as well. This is the way that God has given us to grow, and I am so grateful for the godly council in my life.

Proverbs 15:31-33 Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.

To better explain this conviction I’m building, I’ll share with you some of my experience in the ministry. When Johnny and I were first asked to come to Antelope Valley, I was ecstatic. The first few months, God did incredible things and we saw three amazing women get baptized. However, by the end of spring, our growth came to a halt. I prayed and begged God for the harvest, we worked hard and almost 10 different women got incredibly close to the waters of baptism before practically vanishing. It was devastating to me and I lost a lot of faith that God was really working through me. I began suffering from a chronic auto-immune disease that was practically disabling throughout the summer. To be honest, I thought that I was taking all of the advice that I could, but it wasn’t until the past couple weeks that I realized I haven’t been seeking it out that much. I am grateful for Shauna’s gentle correction in many areas of my life and ministry and I am very hopeful that we will have an incredible baptism by this weekend, and that our ministry will continue to grow and flourish from here forward!

Proverbs 19:20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

At the end of the day, God has provided many ways for us to grow in our daily walk with him and one of those is the godly advice of the men and women in our lives! I hope this spurs you on and encourages you as this study has helped me a great deal.

To God be all the glory,
Tori Lynn

P.S. Check out our new campus vlog; Unschooled and Ordinary Women!

Nothing to Offer

We cannot fully understand God’s love for us until we accept that we cannot bring Him anything that He is lacking.

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Sunset over Palos Verdes Cliffs, California

Psalm 50:12 If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.

We often have this misconception that when we serve God, we are doing some great thing for Him that He should be thankful for.  I have seen many a person cry out, “Have I not done enough for you?” or even complain about all that they’ve given to God.  The truth is this:

He doesn’t need you, you need Him.

The same God who created the sunsets, who set the boundaries of the sea, who invented all the races of the world and brought humans out of the dust has asked us to serve Him.  This is not in any was similar to a desperate man begging for a life dependent favor, but closer to a young daughter taking “orders” from her father for tea. With joy she would bring a plastic teacup that he bought her of water from his house, thinking it of great importance and duty.  To the daughter, it is a great act of love to serve her Father, though in reality He could simply snap his fingers and have someone bring him the finest drink in the world in minutes.

Romans 11:35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?”

For some reason, we get stuck on this “God owes me” mentality.  This especially comes up during times of challenge.  Twice a year, we raise up a “Special Missions Contribution” to fund new church plantings around the world.  Many hearts grow hard around this time of year, people feel like they have given enough for their lot in life, that it’s God’s turn to take care of them.

Job 41:11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.

As true disciples, we must understand that we have nothing to offer.  God could destroy the earth today and be completely justified in doing so, but He has been patient with us (2 Peter 3:9) in order that we may repent (Romans 2:4) from our deadly and sinful lives and turn to serving Him.

Personally, my heart was challenged at the beginning of Special Missions this year.  I have been fundraising to move to the Philippines for a while with (what feels like) little results for months.  Faithlessness crept in and I imagined giving the little that I’d earned towards my goal into Special.  Thanks be to God that my heart got checked and I realized the selfishness is my heart.  When I hear stories of the remnant group forming in Lagos, Nigeria and all of the miracles that are taking place in the Philippines even now, it pulls on my heart to remember that we have a bigger picture to work for.

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

The only sacrifice that we can truly offer a God who has everything is, well, everything.  When you see someone struggling over whether or not they can afford dinner, treat them to a meal, if you have time to go and pick someone up from work that gets off after the bus stops running, take care of it, and especially if you live in America and can earn money that your brothers and sisters around the world desperately need, help them out.  The truth is, we have nothing to offer except all that we have.  This is the kind of sacrifice God desires.  (Romans 12:1)

If your ministry is struggling with contribution or you don’t feel like you’re advancing in your personal life, perhaps it’s time for a heart check.  When you give, are you giving from your heart out of gratitude (2 Corinthians 9:7), or just until you feel like you’ve done enough?

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

To God be the Glory,
-Tori Lynn

Labor Prompted By Love

We must remember to be motivated by love in all areas of our ministry.

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The Dgroup from Cerritos College- Patricia, Angela, Jen and myself

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:1-3‬ ‭NIV
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul wrote what would become one of the most quoted scriptures in the Bible. The “love chapter” is written on plaques, notebooks, read as part of wedding vows and quotes constantly. However, I’ve found that it goes a lot deeper than most people use it. The truth is, no matter how hard we work or what we accomplish, none of it matters if it was not done in love.
The word love is translated from the Greek Agape is the highest of loves. Agape love is sacrificial; John 15:13 says “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And this is the kind of love that all of our work and efforts are useless without.
As disciples, it is easy to get caught up in the details, forgetting our true purpose. If our work isn’t being produced by love, we find ourselves going from Bible Study to Date to Discipling/Mentoring Time with no true investment in God’s kingdom, and eventually it all becomes empty. Not only do we start to find our own lives as a disciple growing dull, but the relationships around us will become a burden as well. If you try to maintain relationships without love, they’re going to feel it. The people you mentor and disciple may see you as harsh or neglectful no matter how much energy and time you pour into them.
I encountered this problem a lot in early 2015. After a close friend fell away, I drew my heart back from my ministry to attempt to cope with the pain without causing others trouble. What I didn’t realize is that my attempt to move forward without stopping the ministry caused me to stop working out of love for God and the people in my life and it became about me. I was refusing to fail, and in that I found myself spiraling. It took another sister showing me where I lacked this deep love in order to snap me out of it.
“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬
During my time co-leading Cerritos, I was disciples by an incredible sister, Cassidy Olmos (who is now leading the campus ministry in London, England with her husband Anthony). She showed me this scripture at least every other Discipling Time that we had, but it wasn’t until I failed deeply that I realized the problem. I was at every meeting of the body, almost always an hour early, I was serving in multiple ministries and discipling multiple women, I had my quiet times every day, I was in Bible Studies every week, but my labor wasn’t prompted by love, so everything I did was ineffective. My relationships became shallow, many of the Bible studies remained cold contact and stopped after discipleship, I felt super overwhelmed and I knew something needed to change. Cassidy displayed the kind of work that I will always remember, because it came from love. That is the indicator of a true disciple. John 13:34-35 says that we will be known by our love for one another. If we are true disciples, we will not be remembered only by what we do, but how we loved.
If you are working hard and feel ineffective in your ministry, it might be time for a heart check. Do you really love the people in your ministry? Do you love the lost? Do you truly love God? Or has it become just another part of your routine?
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:14-15‬ ‭NIV‬‬
If we are to be effective disciples, we have to be compelled by Christ’s sacrificial love for us. If your brother took a bullet for you, and asked in their dying breath that you raise his children, how would you react? Would you be reluctant, would you complain about their constant need to eat? Would you be irritable with them and complain about raising them? No, we would be grateful. Of course there would be difficult moments, but you owe him your life, the least you could do is take care of his children. In the same way, we owe our lives to Christ. Not simply out of a written contract, but because of his great love, and so we have a responsibility to “feed his sheep.”
1 Corinthians 16:14
Do everything in love.
To have strong and healthy ministries, everything that we do has to come from love.  If you’ve been working hard with little return, take a step back and examine your ministry.  Learn the love languages of the disciples around you and invest in them.  If you disciple a woman who has quality time as her love language, take her out to dinner and go on an adventure, if you live with a sister who has acts of service as her main love language, clean the house for her before she gets home.  Go out of your way to show your love, and you may be surprised at the results.  Be honest with the girls in your ministry and get open about your failures.  After all, love covers a multitude of sins.  (1 Peter 4:8)  If you shift gears and get your motivation from God’s love, your ministry will start to turn around in a dramatic way. Let your work be motivated by love.
To God be the Glory,
Tori Lynn.