“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

Day 365

That’s right! It’s been an entire year since I moved to Antelope Valley. I couldn’t have begun to imagine what this adventure would hold for me. A year ago with tears in my eyes, I said goodbye to the wonderful Long Beach I had grown so fond of over the two years I lived there. As I drove up into the mountains and past the fault lines, I dreamed of a glorious year full of new challenges and victories.

My sunshine and rainbows were quickly shaken by a car accident on the 9th of January last year, leading to a whole string of trials I never would have imagined facing. Dealing with my own sin has been no walk in the park either. Let me tell you something, when you start a year with the ambition to understand what God’s grace really means, you’re asking for a lot.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

In the midst of what I believe has been one of the craziest years of my life, God brought me a lot of joy in 2016 – joy that I could not have deserved and far beyond what I could have imagined. Over Thanksgiving, my best friend, the love of my life, the man God has been so gracious as to even put in my life asked me to marry him. Talk about immeasurably more.

So here I am, sitting in the very room that I stumbled into a year ago with what little fit into the back of my RAV4, writing out seat assignments for my wedding next week and starting the process of moving out of my last sisters household. I will be sure to share more of the details as to how I got this far later on, but if there’s anything I learned from 2016, it would be that God’s grace is something far beyond what I could ever study or learn about. God’s grace is that I’m here, that no matter how many times I’ve completely blown it this year, He has provided at every turn. From brining the man of my dreams into my life to helping me fix the Wi-Fi, God has answered innumerable prayers this year. Sure, it’s easy to sit around and think about the ones that weren’t answered, the people that turned their backs on God and me, the dreams that weren’t quite there yet this year, but why should I do that? Of what honor is it to God to pine after the things that didn’t happen this year? It would be like a teenager getting mad at their parents for buying them a car but not an iPhone.

Although I didn’t start out 2016 wanting an auto-immune disease to slowly deteriorate my body, to watch Alzheimer’s to deteriorate my grandmother, or to total the first car I’ve had in years, I’ve let God down more than I can even imagine, and He’s been so good to me. I could sit and think about the days worth of hours I poured out into various women’s lives, only to see them decide to keep their backs turned on God, or I could rejoice in the wonderful women God has brought into our ministry.

All I can suggest is that when you look back at your past, whether 2016 or all the way back to your childhood, remember that regrets aren’t going to help you grow.

Proverbs 24:16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

(For one more week)

-Tori Lynn Wallace

And to God forever be the glory.

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!

Honestly

  
Writing is hard. 

I don’t mean the physical act of writing things down, but living of lifestyle of recording your thoughts in one particular place. 

Since I began the journey of full-time ministry and attending the incredible ministry school ICCM, I’ve found myself less and less devoted to my writing. Yes, I still have a life and hobbies, but it’s been difficult to really portray what I’m learning and going through in this way. 

Life is growth. 

I really believe my life has changed this spring, and for the better in many ways. I’m learning to deal with things I’ve shoved under rugs for years, I’m seeing character flaws that I used to be proud of, and I have a great purpose, to seek and save the lost. 

Leaving my full-time job in Long Beach and moving to Antelope Valley in January felt like a huge stretch at the time, but I had no idea what was really coming. Thus far I’ve experienced heart breaks, I’ve seen women walk away from God, I’ve prayed for them in tears, but I’ve also seen incredible miracles.

 

Baptism of Jessica Reyes

 
Baptism of Malonie Penn
 

There is nothing quite as amazing as watching God change young women’s lives.  These most two recent baptisms in our ministry at Antelope Valley College have brought my heart unimaginable joy. As tiring and painful as ministry can be at times, there is nothing more rewarding. Finally, I get to see one of my all-time favorite scriptures lived out in my own life:

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭ “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

These women have truly become dear to my heart. This is just the beginning. I may not be spending as much time writing physical letters on blogs or by hand, but I’d rather spend my time pouring out my words to human hearts, in hopes that some might be saved. 

Yes, I will continue to write, but this is the purpose of my heart. I want to most importantly live a life worth writing about for my God. 

To God be the glory,

Tori Lynn W. 

A Costly Left Turn

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Goodness, what a weekend.

Yes, in case you were wondering, that is a hospital bracelet. This is the weekend of our church’s annual Winter Workshop, a sort of leadership conference where people come in from all over the world and the nation. I woke up Friday morning very excited about the long drive from Antelope Valley to start this off. Minutes later, the front of my RAV4 was scattered across the intersection and the impact kept running through my head.

Many prayers and tears later, I had to laugh a little bit. I don’t pretend to understand what God allows vs what He causes to train us, but I definitely can learn a lot from this.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:17-18‬

The shattered pieces of my car suddenly seemed like much less than a catastrophe and much more like a wake up call.  I have developed the terrible habit of depending on my own strength instead of praying as much or as deeply as I should be.  After loads of anxiety about not having insurance and reflecting on everything, even the gigantic mountains we drove past felt like nothing.

God is greater.

One simple crash could seem like a lot if I focused on what I could see, but as the conference went on the crash seemed to shrink into the background.  Even as I limped around the conference center we were meeting in, the more stories I heard from around the world, the smaller my little bruises (and yes, that’s all I came away with) felt.

The fellowship was sweet and the lessons were fire, at the end of it all I’m just grateful that I stuck it out.

Yet, at the same time I had to handle some pretty big truths:

#1: Never EVER drive without insurance.  Trust me, it’s really not worth it.  You will truly save nothing at the end of the day.

#2: Don’t be afraid to take left turns, but know that things happen.  Sometimes you think you see everything, sometimes you can’t tell.

#3: God is in control and sometimes you have to take hits, but He still takes care of you in the end if you follow Him.

#4: Pray. Pray often, pray deeply, pray without ceasing, pray alone, pray with others.  It is certainly not going to do much good alone if you do not live your life for God, but it is most certainly necessary and is definitely powerful.

The accident itself was quick, I simply thought I was taking a left turn and going on my way as normal. I didn’t see anything until the headlights smashed into the side of my car. It felt as though time stopped for a moment while Biscuit spun into a pole on the other side of the street.  As I fumbled with my keys to pull them out of the ignition, everything inside of me felt shaken except for one. My faith. I was alive, for some reason the other car had hit me at the exact spot that didn’t cause any serious injury.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”‭‭ Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬

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As I left little Biscuit at the impound, I didn’t feel upset, angry or even that disappointed.  Sure, there’s a lot of muddy waters I’ve got to sort through right now, but I’m alive and there are still people to study the Bible with and I still have lessons to learn.  In the end, I know that I’ve really got nothing to worry about.  Although I feel utterly swamped, I am certain that  (Romans 8:28) everything is going to work out.

To God be the Glory.

Tori Lynn W.

God’s Grace in Leadership

  

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭126:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Today, I was reminded of what a great dream that I’ve been able to live out for the past two+ years. 

See, in August of 2013, I found myself trying to piece together a reason to keep living. All attempts at finding a ministry that glorified God had run dry and my depression was getting worse. One day, a friend of mine asked me to define grace from my perspective, and I was stumped. Due to a couple of close friends, I knew a good deal about the City of Angels church and trusted their doctrine, so I started searching for articles or sermons on the topic. Finally, I stumbled upon a sermon by Kip McKean from Febuary of that year, simple titled “Grace.” 

As I listened to the sermon, I quietly made the decision to fly to LA one day to see if this church could actually live up to the definitions provided of grace. At the time, the points from Hosea stuck out the most to me. Little did I know that those verses would later be read at my baptism a few months later. Stories were told of disciples that fought to understand God’s grace, and though I had no idea who they were, their names stayed in my mind. Little did I know that I would become close to many of them, including Jason Woody. 

Well over two years later, I found the very same sermon again on my phone and listened to it last night in preparation for the new year. 

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Being “strong in the grace” is one of my biggest challenges as a disciple, so as I listened to this message, I was again reminded of the gratefulness that results from God’s grace. 

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I was again reminded that grace inspires hard work, not the bare minimum, but every last ounce. Grace inspires sacrifice and love, and despite all of that, it is still something we could never deserve. 

This morning, we sent off our dear leaders Kip and Elena McKean (who have in many ways worked harder than anyone I know), and as they prepare to focus on the crown of thorn churches around the world, I am in awe of God’s grace. How could I have ever hoped to be a part of this incredible kingdom, to walk with leaders so deeply rooted in conviction and love, to see the prayers and dreams of many fulfilled, to live out what prophets and kings longed to see? 

In the message titled Grace, mission teams were spoken of in the concept of a dream and a prayer that have now become established churches. Now, by the grace of God we have many new dreams on the horizon. In all of this, I am grateful to God for Kip and Elena’s leadership. Though many dream, not many are willing to pay the price of seeing it through. I am thoroughly excited to see what happens in the next couple of years, and to the end of our lives on this earth. In just six years, God has done so many great things for us, and we are filled with joy. To have deep relationships with disciples all across the world seems like such an impossibility in this world, it is truly an incredible aspect of God’s grace that we have this unity.

  
However, in result of this grace, we also have been called. As excited as I am to answer this call, I am also challenged by it. Though, in the end I am reminded by a song that has been dear to me for a very long time. 

It started out as a feeling

Which then grew into a hope

Which then turned into a quiet thought

Which then turned into a quiet word

And then that word grew louder and louder

‘Til it was a battle cry

I’ll come back when you call me

No need to say goodbye

-The Call, Regina Spektor

So as everything changes, let us set our hearts on the hope we have through God’s grace and bring in 2016 in a way that honors our God. 

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.”

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:13‬ ‭NIV‬

To God be the glory.

-Tori Lynn

Time

“Time. There is much time left and lots of life seasons. There is much to see, to do, and to be.”
-Adam Young

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I’ve never fancied the question “where do you want to be in five years?” very much. Rather, I’ve always asked myself, “Where did you want to be five years ago? And what do you think of it now?”

After a little bit of reflection, I think my 15 year old self would be very pleased and surprised, perhaps even a bit relieved.

Though I can’t pretend that my life is all together or by any means perfect, it has certainly surpassed any of my hopes, especially from that time. For one, I’m still alive, which would have been one of the larger surprises to my past self. Beyond that, I’m living the life I could only dream of.  I suppose it helps me to think of who I really want to be.  I have a lot more ambition and loads more hope than I did five years ago, but how much further would I want to be, and who do I have to be now to get there?

As one of the best lyrics of all time asks, “This is your life, are you who you want to be?”

Asking that question has become a large part of my life.  See, there is no greater joy than to bring the same quality of life to others, and it is simply impossible to live greatly by yourself.

I suppose that I have found myself at a yet another crux in my journey.  It’s funny how failed plans can bring about the best things.  After saving money and preparing to move to a third world country for most of the year, it is quite a culture shock for me to reabsorb myself into the campus ministry in Southern California, but I must say it is a great challenge to take on.  I am constantly discovering how God reinvents our lives over and over again until we get what He’s been trying to teach us all along, and I am seeping with anticipation for this next season.

So on the topic of time, I have learned that though there is a lot of it, we have not an ounce to waste.

Make the most of your life. Email me if you want to learn more.

To God be the Glory