A Virtuous Life

Performing Our Best

There are many people in the world who have natural or what we often call "raw talent." Much of our modern media is obsessed with finding such raw talent. Through avenues such as SportsCenter, YouTube, The Voice, Master Chef, and even Dancing with the Stars. America is weekly searching and taking in some of the greatest raw talent this side of the globe.

These sensations are the role models for the current generation, but what of their character? Should we praise them in such high regard on performance alone? Do we even care about their character?

If we are honest, culturally and personally we really aren't concerned with virtue, character or discipline. The sweet delight of outward performance is intoxicating. True character and virtue that is attractive and inspiring is gone. As Christians how should we be thinking about virtue versus performance? Is virtue an outdated form of piety left over from the Puritans? Does character mean nothing anymore?

Human Wholeness

The New Testament just like the Old Testament is filled with exhortations to character. If we think rules and regulations are simply Old Testament and have been covered by the "Grace of God” then we've truly misunderstood the whole point of the power and beauty of the resurrection. A misunderstanding that is changing our daily lives.

Listen to this:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Bible tells us that character, virtue, discipline is very important. In fact, Peter's language makes it vital to the Christian life. These bible verses tell us that those who trust in Christ are headed for the glory and excellence of Jesus Christ. We are headed for human wholeness. The New Testament makes it clear that this work has already begun. It began the moment you placed your trust in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ and were subsequently filled with the power and presence of his Holy Spirit.

Putting on the New Behavior of Life 

Now the fun part begins. We are now on a life long journey of “working out our salvation.” Working to what we will be one day when we see Jesus Christ face to face. We are becoming new creations day-by-day. Putting off the old ways of thinking, speaking, and living we are putting on the new behavior of life in the Holy Spirit.

N. T. Wright calls this Resurrection life:

"The new life of strenuous ethical obedience, enabled by the Holy Spirit, to which the believer is committed.” I believe, in these dark times, that the Church needs to hear this call of the Holy Spirit and return to the true calling of the new covenant–to live out the life of Jesus. To be parables of Jesus. You are the light of the world! You are the salt of the earth. But if that light grows dim and if that salt loses it savor what is it good for? It is by our good deeds, by our character, that mission is made possible. Co-workers, employees, and employers, neighbors, friends, family are to see the virtuous life of the Spirit in us and as they do we can give an answer for the reason for the “living hope that is at work in our lives, with meekness and fear. Each follower of Jesus Christ is called to this: to reflect God’s own character back to himself–worship. And simultaneously to reflect God’s character out into the world–mission. We are called to a life of virtue. Christian, begin to become what you will be by God’s grace.

A Virtuous Life

Beginning Sunday, May 3 we will look into these things. Join us as we unpack Bible passages that speak of "a virtuous life." A virtuous life that is pleasing to God and a delight to the world.

 

#avirtuouslife

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Sia Yambire

SIA YAMBIRE'S STORY

Sia is from Bolgatanga, Ghana, which borders Burkina Faso. Every year, he goes back there for four months. Like nearly everyone over there, Sia grew up happy but simply—with a large family in a primitive mud hut—no electricity, running water, or plumbing. It was subsistence living off the land. And that’s how all the people of Yorgo still live. “Bolga” is world famous for their beautiful African baskets, and Sia makes a humble living by bringing back a few thousand of them each year to sell at local markets. He’s everywhere–you’ve probably seen him at our farmer’s markets yourself.

Over there, churches are the focal point of communal living and sharing, and it’s been Sia’s vision that Yorgo might have their very own. Sia, with his beautiful tribal scars all over his face, grew up practicing a form of traditional African spiritualism; but at age 18, he became a Christian.

Back in 2009, while Sia was here in Sonoma County, his wife Linda was pregnant and leading their church-building effort in Yorgo. But when she gave birth, there were no doctors to stop her blood loss, and tragically, she died. Accepting this different path, Sia named his daughter Ayinema, meaning “God’s Will”. Now that’s the church’s name, too.

Last year, a couple of our church members visited Ayinema Church. It only had an outer foundation and walls, and no roof, no floor. But still, because it is made from concrete and cinderblocks,  it was a source of pride. There are many African churches like this–walls but no roof (roofs are expensive, so they often remain only a “one-day maybe” hope). This Refuge family provided a metal roof, and now the villagers are protected from sun or rain.

About Yorgo, Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa around 105,900 square miles in size. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north; Niger to the east; Benin to the southeast; Togo and Ghana to the south; and Ivory Coast to the southwest. Its capital is Ouagadougou. As of 2014, its population was estimated at just over 17.3 million.

CONNECT

www.ayinema.org

www.facebook.com/ayinema

email[at]ayinema.org

February 25, 2014

Introduction

Compassionate Lord, Thy mercies have brought me to the dawn of another day. Vain will be its gift unless I grow in grace, increase in knowledge, ripen for spiritual harvest...

Prayers & Psalms for Meditation

"'O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.' Now I was cupbearer to the king.

In the month of Nisan, win the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, 'Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.' Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, a 'Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, bwhen the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?' Then the king said to me, 'What are you requesting?' So I prayed cto the God of heaven. And I said to the king, 'If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.' And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), 'How long will you be gone, and when will you return?' So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time." – Nehemiah 1:11-2:6

"The intense, persistent praying of Nehemiah prevailed. God can even affect the mind of a heathen ruler, and this he can do in answer to prayer without in the least overturning his free agency or forcing his will." – E. M. Bounds, Prayer and Praying Men

Intercession For Others

Pray that even in the face of the rebellion of others that the will of God will prevail for his glory. Pray boldly for his will to be accomplished in this city, county, and country.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Benediction

Our God of wonders is even able to turn the head of the mocker. He can move the stone heart of evil men and influence the dark powers of this world without them even knowing that even their rebellion is made to obey him in the perfect outplaying of the LORD's will.

February 24, 2014

Introduction

Compassionate Lord, Thy mercies have brought me to the dawn of another day. Vain will be its gift unless I grow in grace, increase in knowledge, ripen for spiritual harvest...

Prayers & Psalms for Meditation

"In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks.  I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.  On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river (that is, the Tigris) I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist.

And he said to me, 'O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.' And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, 'Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.'" – Daniel 10:2-5; 11-14

"It takes time to pray, and it takes time to get the answer to prayer. Delays in answering prayer are not denials. Failure to receive an immediate answer is no evidence that God does not hear prayer. It takes not only courage and persistence to pray successfully, but it requires much patience. 'Wait on the Lord and be of good courage; and he shall strengthen thy heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.'" – E. M. Bounds, Prayer and Praying Men

Intercession For Others

That someone you know who seems beyond God's reach, pray for them; not just today, but daily and consistently. Persist is prayer.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Benediction

Does the LORD seem slow in answering your prayers? He is not slow, but is quick to teach us patience, persistence, and to trust him for his perfect timing. Persist patiently today as you trust him for his answers.

February 23, 2014

Introduction

Compassionate Lord, Thy mercies have brought me to the dawn of another day. Vain will be its gift unless I grow in grace, increase in knowledge, ripen for spiritual harvest...

Prayers & Psalms for Meditation

"Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God'? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable." –  Isaiah 40:21-28

"Prayer and tears are mighty things with God. They are to Him much more than consistency and much more to Him than decrees." – E. M. Bounds, Prayer and Praying Men

Intercession For Others

Are you tempted to be discouraged today? Do you know of another's tears? May all those downtrodden by the cares of this world be encouraged to know that the Creator of heaven and earth sees and counts every tear and has the power to lift even the head of the sorrowful because he truly cares.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Benediction

Tearful prayers are often the most earnest and potent. It can seem when approaching such a mighty, powerful, majestic being as the LORD is, that our tears mean little. The truth is the powerful God of all time and space is moved by your honest tears.

February 22, 2014

Prayers & Psalms for Meditation

Paul's Prison Prayer #3

"Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand" – Psalm 95:1-7

  • Begin by praising God for his characteristics (Grace, love, truth, justice, patience, kindness, etc…)
  • Begin to thank God for your salvation and the blessings in your life.
  • Praise the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the relationships we have with each of the Godhead.
  • Finally ask the Spirit to use you today to share Christ with someone, pray for someone, as he leads you to pray, ask for ways to be used.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

February 21, 2014

Prayers & Psalms for Meditation

Paul's Prison Prayer #3

"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have the redemption, the forgiveness of sins." – Colossians 1:9-14

  • Pray for this to be true in your life.
  • Pray for this to be true in the Refuge body.
  • Pray for specific people that are on your heart to intercede for.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

February 17, 2014

Introduction

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? – Psalm 8:2-4

Prayers & Psalms for Meditation

"One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, 'Seek my face.' My heart says to you, 'Your face, Lord, do I seek.' Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in. Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:4-14

Intercession for Others

"I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." – Colossians 1:11-14

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.[/toggle]

Benediction

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

February 16, 2014

Introduction

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? – Psalm 8:2-4

Prayers & Psalms for Meditation

"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil." – Psalm 37:7-8

Intercession for Others

"That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come." – Ephesians 1:17-21

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Benediction

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.