Don't Quit!

       Before I laid down for a nap this afternoon, I was trying to think of something to post.  Well, when I woke up from my nap a few thoughts began to formulate in my mind, so here is the summary- Don't quit!

       This may sound elementary, but it is so foundational.  We need to understand that REGARDLESS of what happens in life, we just can't afford to give up!  Whether it's your walk with the Lord, your marriage (most of you reading this probably aren't married!), or something that God has called you to; giving up can't be an option!  If you are about to give up and give in to the devil, just read the Psalms and see what David did when he felt like giving up!

       Speaking of David, consider this- the trials that God allowed him to go through molded him into the man that God wanted him to be.  Think of this- what you do in the quitting places of life will determine who you become for God!

       So don't quit; the darkest hour is just before dawn!

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:58


Sowing and Reaping

       This week, I am going to post some thoughts about sowing and reaping.  We all know that we will reap what we sow, and yet we often live our lives in such a self-centered way.  Galatians 6:7-9 says, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."  In light of this verse, I would like to share three principles of sowing and reaping.

1.  You do not reap when you sow. 

       Hebrews 11:24-26 says, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.”  Moses had everything the world had to offer right at his fingertips, and yet he realized that none of it would last.  Instead of living for self, he chose to live for God, knowing that he would reap a great reward later.   

2.  You do not reap the amount you sow.

       In Joshua chapter seven, we learn the story of Achan.  Before the Israelites attacked Jericho, God told them not to take any of the spoil.  (Jericho was the first city in Caanan that they were conquering, and they were to give God the first-fruits.)  Well, Achan took some of the plunder for himself, and when his sin was discovered, Achan's penalty was death.  His only sin was stealing, and yet he paid with his life.

       In life, we get to choose our actions.  However, we never get to choose the consequences.  Whether you sow good or bad, you will reap more than you sow.

3.  Regardless of how long it takes, you will ALWAYS reap WHAT you sow.

       Numbers 32:23 says, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”  Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”  There is a saying that goes like this- "Sin takes you farther than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and costs you more than you want pay."  Regardless of what we do in life, we can always be sure that it will catch up to us.  "For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."

       In closing, let me say this: if you will just decide to live for God and do right, you will wake up someday and say, "What happened?!  I didn't do anything special, and yet here I am with the blessings of God on my life!"  I'm not preaching a prosperity Gospel; I'm talking about the blessings of having peace and joy in your heart; the blessings that come from simply being in the will of God."

"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not."


Goals (2014)

       This week, I am going to post some of my goals for this year.  My purpose in sharing my goals is not to make myself look good; I am simply trying to encourage others in their walk with the Lord.  So, here are some goals that I’ve set for myself this year-

1.  Read though the Bible
Reading the Bible is vital for every Christian!  This goal isn’t very hard; it only takes about 15-20 minutes per day.

2.  Memorize five verses per week
This is something that my pastor challenged everyone in our church to do.  This goal really isn’t that hard either, I am just going to have to make it a priority! 

3.  Give a tract or share the Gospel with an average of three people per week.  I recently heard a quote that I think is worth sharing here- “The Gospel came to me, on It’s way to someone else.”  If you are saved, aren’t you thankful someone shared the Gospel with you?
Think about this- according to, more than 6500 people die every hour!  And the Bible says that “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14); which means that the majority of these 6500 people go straight to hell!  May we all pray that God gives us a passion for sharing the gospel this year! 

       I have a few more goals and things that I’m working on, but I thought I would share these three here.  Thanks to those who have commented with some of their goals; may we all continue to challenge each other to follow Christ in the days ahead!  

       “But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 3:13b-14)

2013 In Review (Goals)

       Now that 2013 is in the books, I am going to do a recap of my goals for 2013.  I missed quite a few of them, but I know that the goals I set did help me to serve God better than I would have done otherwise.  So here is how it went......

1.  Read the Bible through in eight months.  (I actually started on this goal on December 1, so my goal is to finish before August 1).  
Result- I did manage to accomplish this one, and God taught me a lot in the process! 

2.  Finish memorizing the book of I Corinthians.  (I am working on chapter five right now, since I did the first four chapters last year.)
Result- I made it to chapter nine, verse ten.  Not as good as I should have done; I'm going to try to be more consistent this year.

3.  Lead ten people to the Lord.  (This looks pretty daunting for me, but with God, all things are possible!  And if I miss the mark on this goal and only see 5 people saved, that would still be more than last year!)  
Result-  God gave me the privilege of leading two people to Him this year; let me tell you, there is no better feeling!  But at the end of the day, may we all remember to simply be obedient to God's call to share to Gospel; we can't save anybody, but we definitely have a God that can!

4.  Share the gospel or give a tract to an average of two people per week.
Result- I finished this goal on December 31.  (I need to work on not procrastinating this year!)

5.  Start a blog (check!) and post at least once per week.
Result- I started the blog, but only did about half as many posts as I wanted to do!
6.  Spend quality time with siblings.  Young people looking for opportunities to serve should begin with their own families.  
Result- I had the opportunity to make some amazing memories with my siblings; they are the best in the world.  However, I think that a lot of time young people (myself included) take their siblings for granted.  May we never forget to cherish the moments that we have with our loved ones, for they could be gone tomorrow.

7.  Read the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.  It is important that we understand how and why America was founded, and these two documents are a good place to start.
Result- Yikes!  I missed this one, which is really pathetic, because it's not very hard!  I am definitely going to make this a goal for this year.

8.  Read "Her Knight in Shining Armor," by a friend of mine, evangelist Caleb Garraway.  This book is a call to young men to rise up and be the man that God wants them to be, as they prepare for marriage.
Result- My dad went through this book with me and several of my brothers, and we had a great time.  I have an awesome dad!

9.  Smile and laugh more!  I sincerely believe that we as Christians need to loosen up and enjoy life more.  Why do we (including myself) go around with such long faces, when we have been given so much?
Result- It's kind of tough to measure this one, but I'm fairly certain that I did not improve in this area!  Praise God, I can work on it again this year!

10.  Do push-ups every day.  This one may not be as "Spiritual" as some of my other goals; however, I do want my body to last as long as possible in order to serve God as long as possible.
Result- My pushups went well until about March.......

11. Be consistent in my prayer life.  I find that sometimes it is easy to pray, and sometimes it isn't; however, it is important to talk to God regularly, even when we don't feel like it.
Result- This went well at times, and not so well at other times.  I definitely need to improve in this area.

12. Improve on the banjo and guitar.  I play music for the honor and glory of God, so I want to do my best for Him.
Result- I think I got a little better, maybe?

13. Preach the Gospel every opportunity I have.  I feel very strongly that God wants me to be a preacher, so I want to take every chance I get to proclaim the Gospel, and the incredible truths found in His Word.
Result- God gave me multiple opportunities to preach this year, and these times were some of my highlights!

14. Have a more grateful heart.  Ungratefulness comes from pride.  When someone is ungrateful, it is either because they didn't get what they thought they deserved, or because they don't realize that the blessings they have received are given to them by God.  God loves to hear His children express their gratefulness for what He has done in their lives!
Result- I think I've been struggling in this area recently; I definitely need to work on this!

15. Encourage others to serve God whole-heartedly.  It burdens me greatly when I see others (especially young people) wasting their lives on trivial things, while millions of people are lost and on their way to hell.  Hebrews 10:24 says, "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:"  This week, encourage someone to serve God!
Result- This one is a little hard to measure; I know I can always improve in this area!

       Next week, I will be posting some goals I have for this year.  If any of ya'll have a goal for 2014, just leave a comment; I would love to hear about it!  "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.  Amen."  2 Corinthians 13:14


2013 In Review (Photos)

       Now that 2013 is over, here is our year in photos......
Fishing in Alaska

This is our wonderful guide, Jay Yoder.  Seriously, this guy is so good that under his guidance, we caught fish faster than a lot of the native fisherman!  Thanks, Mr. Yoder!

Our church Christmas play

This is one of my favorite pictures of all-time!  Chelsy was shooting pictures of other people, when she turned around and saw Carson in this interesting position!

Home-made donuts!

I'm sure glad that I don't pay the grocery bill for these two!

One of the "not-so-good" days on the farm.  

I love wildlife!

The only thing better than seeing a turkey is shooting one.  (Which, of course, leads to turkey on my  dinner-plate......)

A herd of mountain goats, with Hudson in hot pursuit!

Brothers are so much fun!

 Axis and Allies has become one of my favorite games.  This past year, my brothers and I learned how to play while at the house of our good friends, the Pauls.  This game is a blast!

Had a long day, honey?

Chocolate covered almonds.  Speaking of chocolate, did you know that studies have shown that 11 out of 10 people like chocolate?  Now THAT'S something for you math majors to ponder.

If I could pick any group of guys to go hiking with, I would pick my brothers hands-down.  This picture was taken in Alaska, where our family (most of us, anyhow) hiked a mountain in Skagway.  It was three miles up and three miles back down (that is six miles total, for all of you who AREN'T math majors), there was snow and rain and wind at the top, and Hudson (who was seven at the time) did the whole thing- in crocks!  So much for all those expensive hiking shoes and boots; Hudson prefers his "old faithfuls"!

Bontragers are EXTREMELY competitive!  "Now, did he make it safely home or not?"

But as the saying goes, "All's well that ends well."

Or maybe it didn't end well.......
 I love puns!

And rubber band fights!  This picture was from our family battle, which was a walk in the park compared to our war when the Wilsons came to our house in December!  The older boys slept in the bus, and one night us guys had an all-out war.  I'm talking, no shirts (it hurts more that way!), and no blankets for cover, either!  We didn't take any photos, but let me tell you, some of the guys (I won't mention any names) had some major welts by the time the fight was over!  It was a blast!  I know that any girls reading my blog probably won't understand, but guys get a really big charge out of inflicting pain on other guys!  (All in fun, of course!)

        Just imagine eight of these guys, confined in a small bunk-room, with one goal in mind- shoot somebody else hard enough with a rubber band, that you inflict pain.  Yeah, it sure was wild!

 Ah, yes-food! 

I had a lot of highlights this year, but one of the biggest was preaching at our church's New Year's Eve service.  From left to right- our pastor and the eight preacher boys.  

     "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork."

Thanks to Chelsy for the great photos!


Wisdom Teeth

       In September, I had my wisdom teeth extracted.  The actual process wasn't too painful; the toughest part was the next few days, when my mouth was EXTREMELY sore!  One funny moment, though, came when the dentist was in the process of taking my teeth out.  He asked me if I felt any pain, and since I couldn't talk (he had already numbed my mouth) I just shook my head "no."  Well, he took that to mean "yes," so he gave me another shot of the numbing solution!  I never did tell him that he misunderstood me, but the result of the extra shot was that my mouth stayed numb a little longer than it would have otherwise!  And a numb mouth basically means that the sides of your mouth feel like rubber, and your tongue is VERY lethargic!  Simply put, talking while in this state is next to impossible.  And not being able to talk is extremely annoying, especially when you live in a large family!  
       Talking, though, reminds me of a Bible verse I read recently, which says, "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise." (Proverbs 10:19)  This verse is a good reminder to talk less!  
       And here are a few photos of me in my swollen condition-

       All together, it really wasn't that bad.  However, I am thankful that this is a once-in-a-lifetime procedure!


Christmas Eve

   I know my blog has been lying dormant for a LONG time, so I am going to give ya'll a bunch of pictures to make up!  These photos are from our Christmas Eve dinner, which is my favorite meal of the year.  Our family has a tradition of making appetizers for Christmas Eve, and it's a blast having everyone in the kitchen at the same time!  Here are some photos......
Bean Dip by Joshua (He ALWAYS makes this for Christmas Eve, and we ALWAYS enjoy it!)
Jalepeno poppers (by Chels)
Allison and Liz made the chocolates.  In case I've never told ya'll before, chocolate is my FAVORITE "food group"!
Taylor made twice baked potatoes
The fried mozzarella sticks turned out to be a "fried mozzarella blob," but it tasted good nonetheless! 
Veggies (Arranged by our dear mother)
Mushroom/Jalapeno Quesadillas (Made by Denver)
Stuffed mushrooms(Also by Denver)
Spinach/Artichoke dip (Hudson and I are big buds, so we help each other make a dish on Christmas Eve!)
Carson's usual dish is fried shrimp.  By the way, if you've never done so, you really should study about the health benefits of eating shrimp!  (JUST KIDDING!!!)
       Allison made delicious kabobs with mozzarella, salami, tomatoes, and pesto.  Yum!

       And a couple of my favorite pictures from the day.....
Elizabeth manages to get into more than her share of messes!
A good reminder to check what your clothes say BEFORE you put them on.  You never know who might take you literally!
We may all look peaceful in this picture, but some of us men were running out of patience (I mean, seriously, the food was getting cold and we decided THIS would be a good time for a family portrait?  But then again, that's what happens when your sister is a photographer!) 

       Praise the Lord for family, and most of all for the gift of His Son!