Philippians 4:4-7 MSG (italics mine) Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up at any minute!
Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
This is truth that I needed to hear today. Truth that I need to hear everyday. This passage, perhaps, is one of the main truths I personally need to be reminded of again and again. When things aren't going right, when my day is full of chaos, when a friend has hurt me, when someone I love is in a bad place, these words meet me right where I am. I am a worrier. I stress. I get super anxious. At the center of my worry, stress, and anxiety is a lack of trust in my good God. I am restless until I find rest in Christ alone. This passage gets at the heart of my greatest struggle.
When we left off with Jonah 3, God had changed his mind and rescued Nineveh. I'm pretty sure the Ninevites were overjoyed. But what about Jonah? How did Jonah react?
Jonah 4:1-4 This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry.So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord?
That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and
compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You
are eager to turn back from destroying people.Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” The Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”
Jonah, Jonah, Jonah. Really? This back and forth? His relationship with God is fickle, marked by a pattern of obedience/disobedience and then being grateful/ungrateful. God challenges his anger. He reminds him of the 120,000 of Nineveh who were living in spiritual darkness. He reminds him that he is a rescuer. Are we like Jonah, questioning our God who rescues those who we don't believe deserve it? When we are wronged, do we believe justice should be served? When we are wronged, do we seek revenge? When we are wronged, do we justify everything to make sure the perpetrator gets what's coming to them? Isn't that the place where Jonah goes? He wants the perpetrators to get what's coming to them. See the bitterness that holds Jonah captive? Gently, God helps him to set it free. Here is a powerful video of someone who did just that. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wz3tkHv5sbg All of the people we've been talking about - Jonah, the Ninevites, Renee, Eric - they are broken and sinful people. Their stories and attitudes change. And yet, only one person remains constant: God. He remains good and he remains our rescuer. This Christmas, I want to celebrate the ultimate rescue. The day that Jesus was born to die so that I might be rescued.
I think it's fair to say that we enjoy being around genuine people. No one likes someone who acts one way around one group of people and another way around another group of people. We tend to call these people fake. But as I think about my life and as we think about the culture around us - is our society shaping us into genuine people or fake people?
Relevant Magazine posted an article on their website called: "5 Things We Will Wish We'd Done Differently." It is suggesting when our generation is old and gray, we will look back regretfully at these 5 decisions.
1. "Most of my spare time was sacrificed to social media. Collectively, Americans spend 100,000 years on Facebook every month." WHAT?! How crazy is that??
2. "I knew more about celebrities than I did about my neighbors...The relationship with a celebrity is one way...you have no opportunity to affect their lives, only observe them." I am guilty of this one, big time.
3. "I was so set on buying things, I never got the pleasure of making them." I see their point, but I'm not sure if I will necessarily regret this one.
4. "I wasted my life entertaining myself...As long as we are preoccupied with self-entertaining, we have little time for reflection on the needs of other people." Ouch, this hits home.
5. "I never found time to be quiet." And yet we wonder why we don't feel connect to God?
Friends, I'm afraid our society is molding us into fake people. We have been reading through the book of Jonah. In chapter 2, Jonah prayed from the belly of the fish for God to save him. And guess what? Our gracious God came to his rescue. In chapter 3, Jonah finally goes to Nineveh and explains that because of their evil ways, they will be destroyed in 40 days. What is their response? They fast, wear burlap, and pray earnestly to God to be saved. Hear the words of the king and God's response...
"Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us. When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened."
God is our rescuer. God hears our prayers. God sees if our hearts are genuine or fake.
I don't want to let my culture turn me into a fake like the Ninevites had originally allowed. I want to be genuine - an authentic follower of Jesus Christ - not a follower of my culture. The only way this will happen is if I stop looking at what my culture says is normal and good for me and start looking at Jesus.
One thing I realized during the Thanksgiving season...we have 365 days to be grateful for all that God is given us. Unfortunately, we don't use all 365 days. If we are honest with ourselves, we can admit that we often think we are entitled to the things in our lives. We think we deserve what we want, when we want it. And the saddest part? We have taken our blessings and turned them into expectations. Our health, our money, our happiness - rather than seeing them as gifts from God, we see them as things we deserve. Why?
This year with Matt's siblings, instead of doing a Secret Santa, one of my sister-in-laws suggested we give the money to charity. Together, we were able to give $100 to World Vision. We bought a goat and two chickens for a family in desperate need of basic life necessities. The recipients of our goat and chickens probably have a much better grasp of how EVERYTHING is a gift from God and that they are helpless without Him. We, on the other hand, have a false sense of control and an even falser view of entitlement. We begin to believe that we deserve and expect blessings.
How do you know that's you? When you are robbed of something - happiness, material thing, relationship, health - does a part of you get angry and think you deserved that blessing?
So when we know God's truth, when we know what living out His will for our life looks like, when we know all of this and yet we look God in the eye and tell him NO are we surprised when we feel distant from him and his blessings? When we live like this and when we tell God no, I believe two things happen.
1. In our disobedience - we miss out on the blessings God had in store for us.
2. In our disobedience - we walk away from God's protection.
Just look at Jonah chapter 1. It's an incredible story.
(v. 1-3)The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai:“Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.” But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.
He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for
Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from
the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.
(Note: Jonah's audacity!!! Looking God right in the eye and saying: no. And yet, how often are we Jonah? How often do we know God's will and God's truth and we look at Him and say: no.)
(v. 4-8)But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart.Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.So
the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like
this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay
attention to us and spare our lives.” Then
the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and
caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah
as the culprit.“Why
has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you?
What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your
(Note: In Jonah's disobedience, what do we see here? He walks away from God's protection and God's blessings.) Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.” The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned.And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?” “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.” Instead,
the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land. But the
stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it.Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God. “O Lord,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.” Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once!The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him. Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.
(Note: After the storm, God not only rescues Jonah, but he also brings people to Himself. Sailors rescued spiritually, Jonah rescued physically. Our gracious God is in the rescuing business.) So which are you? Praising God and thanking Him for our blessings or looking at the gifts in our life as expectations?
John 14:15 - "If you love me, show it by doing what I've told you." - Jesus.
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about why people choose to live out God's will or to ignore God's will. Why do some long to please Him, long to shine brightly for Him, long to witness for Him, long to grow in His truth, long to bring others along with them to Him? This is a desire God has given me. The last one is the strongest for me. I desperately want to bring others along with me in my pursuit of Christ.
Yesterday, a friend of mine had an interview and she said one of the questions was to tell of your passion. I started to think - what would have been my response? The only thing I've been able to think of ever since...
My passion is to know Jesus Christ, to follow Him, to love Him with my whole heart, and to bring others along with me.
I am not perfect. I mess up daily - hourly, really. There are times when I am selfish and want to do things MY way. But when He brings me back, when He rescues me from my selfishness, at the heart of who I truly am, this is me. My passion is to know Jesus Christ, to follow Him, to love Him with my whole heart, and to bring others along with me. Not to do this alone, but all through Christ's power and strength working in me.
So as I think of friends of mine who aren't living for Christ - I often wonder why? It really is life at its best. Everything else, chasing after anything else, leaves us empty. For me, it really leaves me restless. I am restless until I find rest in you alone, Christ.
So today, I think I've found the answer to the question I've been asking consistently for six months. Why do some intentionally walk away from God's truth and God's way of living? And some of these people are exposed to his truth. Exposed to his truth often.
Because they don't love Jesus.
Isn't that it always? If we truly loved Jesus, if we truly believed that His way was the best way, if we truly believed that He is enough - all of our choices would be in line with His truth.
God, you are big and you are good. Rescue my friends who don't know you and allow them to see this Thanksgiving that all blessings come from you. Rescue me from my selfishness. May I be so permeated with truth that I never doubt your goodness. The greatest blessing is the gift of your Son, our Savior. When we truly see that, when we truly see what has been done for us, how can we have a response other than love?
John 14:21, 23-24 - "The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that's who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him...Because a loveless world," said Jesus, "is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him - we'll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn't mine. It's the message of the Father who sent me."
Sunday night, I had the honor of watching over 50 teenagers assemble Boxes of Hope for Metropolitan Ministries. These boxes provided a Thanksgiving meal for families who would have otherwise gone without. $500 in gift certificates to buy turkeys was collected along with 50 boxes of food. How amazing it that?!
Our scripture reference was Matthew 25:34-40. “Then
the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by
my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready
for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’
those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about?
When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a
drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’
Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did
one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you
did it to me.’
I have a friend who has this passage on her heart. A friend who carries it with her everywhere she goes. She has more than once shared that verse 40 shapes her attitudes and actions. I want to be more like her. I want to be transformed into the person Jesus created me to be. Sometimes I think of this passage just in terms of a service project with homeless people. The thing is - the overlooked and ignored - are all around us. It's our sister, it's the girl in our bible study who we don't click with, it's our teacher, it's our friend. Think about that person's eyes. You know how you can always see the hurt and the confusion in the eyes of those who are overlooked and forgotten? The eyes say it all. Whose eyes have you looked into lately and known they felt overlooked and forgotten? How can you love them? How can you serve them? How can you care for them? When you love, serve, and care for them here's what Jesus has to say to you - That was me. You did it to me.
Love is hard. Love of friends. Love of family. Love isn't safe. But to love is to live. The name of this blog: living life loved - that's exactly what we are. Loved by the Creator of the universe. Loved by the Savior of the world. When we realize how much we are loved, we live life differently. Until we let that love transform us, our hearts are hard.
It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. John 4:23
Worship doesn't have to be fancy. Worship doesn't have to look a certain way. Worship doesn't have to happen in a certain place. Worship is acknowledging that God is God and we are not. Worship is surrendering ourselves to our creator, savior, redeemer, and rescuer. In the midst of the chaos, we admit that we aren't in control and rely on the one who is in control. I am grateful for God's goodness last night. I am grateful that God was God, in control. I am grateful that I was able to call out to God in prayer and worship him with praises and songs along with a room full of people. It was a picture of how life is intended to be lived here on earth. It is a picture of how we will spend eternity in heaven.
Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, how unknowable his paths. "Who knows the mind of our God? Or who can bring counsel to him? Who has given to God, that God should repay?" For from him, through him, to him is everything. To God be the glory forever and ever. To God be the glory forever! Amen.
Imagine a goldfish. There he is in his water filled glass bowl. Swimming along. When suddenly he begins to wonder what lies beyond his life in the fishbowl. What would life be like out in the world. He looks all around him and there is SO much, so many options, so many things. And so with that the goldfish makes his move. He decides he is going to leap out of his bowl and embark on a new life. He spins around quickly in a circle, gaining speed, and then jumps with all of his might. He soars through the air, lands on the table, and his new life begins. He leaves life as it was intended to be lived to try and make it on his own. But the story doesn't go on for very much longer, he flaps around on the table for a little while, and the world begins to suffocate him. He can only breathe, thrive, live when he's in his fishbowl of water. The world leads him to death. There is a world full of options and a world full of things, but no matter what, they will all suffocate him. There is only one thing that will bring him life.
We are that goldfish.
Matthew 7:13-14 - "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." In John 10:9-10 Jesus says, "I am the gate...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Many will walk down the broad road and through the wide gate that leads to destruction. A chasing after the world that won't satisfy us, rather, it suffocates us. But there are a few who will walk down the narrow road and through the small gate that leads to life. It's Jesus verses everything else. It's life with Christ or life apart from Christ. It's life outside the fishbowl, floundering about, being suffocated by the world or thriving in the setting that leads to life.
The encouragement is that we don't have to swim alone. Our God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). All we have to do is ask him, ask him anything, and he will answer (1 Kings 3:5). Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.
In today's Jesus Calling... “Start talking with Me
about whatever is on your mind. Rejoice in the fact that I understand you
perfectly, and I know exactly what you are experiencing. As you continue
communicating with Me, your mood will gradually lighten. Awareness of My
marvelous Companionship can infuse Joy into the grayest day.”
The temptation is to ask for people to fill a role that only Jesus can fill. The temptation is to look to our "people"- parents, siblings, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse - to meet our desire to know and to be known. When our "people" can't love us the way we need to be loved - we get mad at them. When our "people" don't say the right thing or don't understand perfectly - we feel disconnected. But that's exactly it, those PEOPLE were never supposed to fill those needs and desires. Only God can know us fully and intimately. Only God can understand us perfectly. Only God can help us entirely through a situation. God alone has all the answers. We were built to be in an intimate relationship with the one who created us and that was made possible by our Savior, Jesus, who granted us access to God the Father.
We give ourselves away emotionally to others. We give ourselves away physically to others. We seek intimacy with people only to find ourselves feeling more alone.
Getting what you don't deserve.
"What I crave most when my guilt is exposed. The very thing I'm hesitant
to extend when I'm confronted with the guilt of others—especially when
their guilt has robbed me of something I consider valuable." - Andy Stanley
John 8:1-11 Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives,but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them.As
he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees
brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her
in front of the crowd. “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They
were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against
him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When
the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with
the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with
the woman.Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
According to the law, this woman was to be stoned to death. That's the way the world works. Someone has to pay the consequences. Say I drop your iPhone and the screen cracks. A $200 problem. Someone has to pay the penalty. Either I have to pay $200, you have to live with a cracked phone screen, or you have to pay the $200. Let's say you tell me, "Don't worry. It was an accident. I know you didn't drop my phone intentionally. I will get it fixed." Despite my trying to convince you otherwise, I walk away from the situation. I just got what I don't deserve. I deserve to have paid $200. I got what I didn't deserve. Grace.
This woman caught in adultery by law deserved death. Instead she received grace. This isn't a story about not judging others. This is a story about us. We are the woman. Daily we cheat on God. And we too deserve death. Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death." Sin has a consequence and it is death - spiritual death and separation from God both here on earth and for eternity. Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord." I deserve death. Jesus took my place. 2 Corinthians 5:21 - "For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ." Grace.
How can we not extend grace to others when Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice? He died for us. Let the grace that's been given to you allow you to give grace to others.
I've been preparing for this Sunday. God has put the topic of grace on my heart and so I've been reading all different stories of grace. The one that has hit me the most is in the book of Hosea. In the first chapter, God asks Hosea to marry a prostitute. Hosea marries a prostitute named Gomer and after having 3 children together, Gomer continues to run around on him. He's fed up with having a wife who sleeps with other men. God is comparing Hosea and Gomer's relationship to that of his own with Israel. It astounds me, after everything the Lord did for Israel, the ENTIRE book of Exodus. God rescues Israel from slavery, feeds them when they have no source of food in the dessert, and yet Israel runs around on God. Trusting in fake gods. Worshiping and bowing down to idols. So what is God's response? What is Hosea's response? God tells Hosea to take Gomer back, just as God takes Israel back. The book of Hosea concludes with God telling how Israel is "finished with gods that are no-gods. From now on I'm the one who answers and satisfies him. I am like a luxuriant fruit tree. Everything you need is to be found in me. If you want to live well, make sure you understand all of this. If you know what's good for you, you'll learn this inside and out. God's paths get you where you want to go. Right-living people walk them easily; wrong-living people are always tripping and stumbling."
But it's not just Gomer and it's not just Israel. It's the entire human race. We have turned our backs on God, we have worshiped so many things other than God. The God who rescued us from the pit. The God who sent his only son to die for us. And yet we run away from him for our own wild living. My astonishment with the Israelites can be turned right back around on myself. May God never give up on me like he never gave up on the Israelites.
Ryan Long's song Justice of the Peace is about a woman cheating on her husband. A metaphor for how we cheat on God.
got your message on our answering machine
said you’d be late again but what does that mean
means I’m lonely after all
I’ll be waiting here in case you call
guess our telephone ain’t gonna ring
found the note he wrote he says he heard you sing
So I guess
your out with him but what does marriage mean to you
you wear your diamond ring when you lay down
drop your dress you turn your head
hold him when I sleep at home alone in our bed
sleep last night waiting by the window
now the morning’s come with a night time glow
told me where you were I said you lie don’t you even want to try
I’ll take that
ring back cause you don’t wanna be my wife
you know girl about the justice of the peace
gotta bring one of us to our knees
I’ll go down so that you can come back home
though I know you’re gonna keep running around
Thank God it doesn't depend on me. Our God will continue to love us, rescue us, and forgive us. Grace.
Why do we do the things we do? When we serve at Metropolitan Ministries is it for service hours, to feel like a good person, or to serve those who are overlooked and forgotten? Do we do things for people when we're asked and when we know we'll get recognition? Or do we serve others when no one is looking and when no one will praise us for what we've done?
Mark 12:41-44 "Sitting
across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed
money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large
contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a
measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth
is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others
put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave
extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.” Jesus gave his all. On a cross. When we didn't deserve it, Jesus took our place. Do we do things for selfish gain or for the gain of others and to the glory of God? Here's a 4 minute clip from Francis Chan - one of the best videos ever. Are you holding onto the beam for dear life? Or are you walking in a trusting relationship with Jesus? I don't want to go where the majority will go either. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LA_uwWPE6lQ
How many of us are perfectionists? We laugh it off and say it's because we are control freaks and want everything to turn out perfectly. But isn't there usually more? We act like everything is perfect on the outside, completely put together, spotless for the world to see on any given day. But oftentimes the outward appearance is our way of hiding. It is our mask so that others don't dare find out about what's on the inside - the brokenness, the hurt, the ache for approval. We put our all into sports and school - striving for perfection - striving ultimately for our parents approval and to hear the words "I'm proud of you." We put on a smile when we're dying inside...people wouldn't really want to hear about our problems, no one wants the broken me, they just want the fun and put together me.
And in turn, we give our hearts to perfectionism. Yes, if we just act like we have it all together, our problems will be solved. We can shove the hurt, shame, and emptiness deep enough that it won't ever leak out.
But is it working?
Look at this passage from Mark 2:13-17.... Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him.As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him. Later,
Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests,
along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There
were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?" When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy
people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not
those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are
That last line is the one that jumps off the page for me. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous. The ones that I came for, the ones that I want, he says are those who know they are sinners. Jesus says he knows that its just an act. Our trying to act like everything is good on the outside. He asks us - don't give your heart to perfectionism - instead - give your heart to a perfect savior. Jesus, our perfect savior, wants us to be real and honest with ourselves and with him. Saying - thanks, Jesus, but I've got this one, I'll figure it out on my own - gets us no where. Admitting that we don't have it all together and asking Jesus if we can just rest in Him - when we finally do that - we realize we always were the sick who needed a doctor. We just thought we could get away with putting a band-aid on it.
Two Sundays ago, HUB kicked off with a middle school scavenger hunt and high school produce baseball. Both were so fun - here are the two group pictures!
Last night was our first regular HUB. It was so good to be back. If you missed some of the unforgettable games, you should probably ask someone about it!!!
The talk introduced the theme for the semester...I give my heart to _____________________.
We all give our heart to something. I asked friends from HUB to tell me something they want or need. They gave me two lists...one was filled with funny/materialistic things. The other list was filled with deeper desires of their hearts. The second list ached for friendships and families to go back to normal. For people in their life to stop smoking. For the courage to stand for God.
In a world where we can download an app for just about anything...it can be pretty misleading when we aren't able to get an instant fix for our deeper problems. We all give our heart to something....but is that something fixing your problems? If you're giving your heart to acceptance, success in school, etc. will your heart be healed? Listen to Jesus's comforting words...they make me take a deep sigh.
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out? Come to me. Get away with me and
you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk
with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms
of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep
company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
How refreshing. How freeing.
Finally, we watched a video of Michael W. Smith (3 time Grammy Award winner, 40 time Dove Award winner, writer of the famous song "Prince of Peace - You are Holy"). It's so raw.
Two Sundays ago we talked about becoming who we were truly meant to be. I read C.S. Lewis's book Mere Christianity when I was a freshman and college and this passage was very profound and formative in my understanding of myself. I am not myself apart from Christ. Don't let some of the lofty language trip you up - give it a read - it is so good.
The more we get what we now call “ourselves” out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of “little Christs,” all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He invented—as an author invents characters in a novel—all the different men that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to “be myself” without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call “Myself” becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and which I cannot stop. What I call “My wishes” become merely the desires thrown up by my physical organism or pumped into me by other men’s thoughts or even suggested to me by devils... Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most “natural” men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints. But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away “blindly” so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether. Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking at Him. Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
Or rather who do you trust?
Psalm 20:7 "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."
We are all trusting in something. And my bet, is that you're putting your trust in chariots and horses rather than the Lord. I was. And until recently I didn't realize just how much I was doing so. My Dad had open heart surgery 8 days ago and until that point I was trusting in the safety, comfort, and security of my family. My family has always been there for me, my family will always be there for me. Well that was rocked when Dad had to have such a major surgery. Surely then, I would put my trust in God fully, right? But no, the next chariot and horse for me was doctors and medicine. One doctor described my Dad's surgery as "a piece of cake." Then I felt at peace. Finally, I could rest assure that my Dad would be OK! But then the next doctor gave his opinion - piece of cake was not in his diagnosis and he also said the surgery needed to be moved up a month earlier. Family security, doctors and medicine, chariots and horses. Then and finally and only then - I realized there is only one to trust. Only one who will never leave, only one who will never forsake, only one who holds me in the palm of his hand - the Lord our God.
So what are your horses and chariots? Who do you trust above God and will it always be there? When it comes down to it are you looking to the approval of others, positive reputation, forever friends, good grades, athletic success, steady job, dating relationship...what if those were threatened? What if those were taken away?
For me it was some trust in doctors and some in medicine but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Thank goodness God got me to that point before the surgery. Thank goodness I was relying on him and not man. I had an undeniable peace that day that could come from only one person: Jesus.
What about you?
BTW - Dad is home from the hospital and doing well in his recovery!
Allen Hunt (one of my friends since middle school) is in Nashville and making music! Please check it out on his website allenhuntmusic.com. You can support him even more by buying his stuff on iTunes! I know you will enjoy it!!! Way to go, Allen!
What does it look like to live for God? What does it look like to live a Christian life? What is it that Jesus hopes to see from us? There are two things that I think about when I think of these questions. The first is a question in the Westminster Catechism. "What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." The second thing I think of comes from an RUF talk from my freshman year at Furman when our campus minister, Rob Hamby, looked at the passage from Romans 12:1-2 and said that God's will for our lives is to love God and love others.
Last night at HUB we looked at the Message translation of Romans 12:1-2. This passage says both of these things - but the translation makes it all SO clear. Read it through a couple of times, letting each line sink into your heart.
"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."
Tuscaloosa - what a trip! Here is a shot of the entire group - 55 - showing off our best YOLO. On Saturday night at dinner my table was in, shall we say, an odd mood. We started looking up tweets with #yolo. Sure enough the ridiculousness of people had us laughing so hard we were crying. So what did we do from there - use that phrase every single moment of every single day. It became out catchprase because let's face it "You only live once."
The trip had some major highlights: circle time at night, clearing the debris from 3 devastating sites, twin trickery by Matt and Mike in Midtown Village, eating and then dancing to Murphy music at Dreamland BBQ, and the list goes on and on. It was so cool to see a group of 55 come together under our theme verse of Philippians 2:15 - Shine like stars in the universe. This group shined. They shined for Christ as they got a picture of what it looks like to live for Him. All the praise and glory goes to God for this incredible trip. No doubt he was up to things in each of our hearts. I was so thankful to be a part of that awesome group!!!
At HUB on Sunday we looked at Philippians 2:12-18. I get on kicks - having a favorite verse for a while. This verse started standing out to me when I was a freshman in college. I went with Furman RUF on spring break 2006 mission trip to Biloxi - the trip where I also "met" Matt. One morning for devotional we read this passage and verse 14 and 15 really stood out to me! It's been one of my favorites ever since, but this past year, after reading through it with my junior girls bible study, it has resurfaced and remained a verse I constantly turn over in my head. God has used it to shape my heart. God has used it to help me challenge others. Here's the passage...with 14 and 15 italicized and my favorite part bolded...
"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me."
Look at this picture...what stands out to you...what is your eye drawn towards?
The star! Obviously! There's no way a random part of the black/darkness stood out. Everything else fades into the background when there's a star. Jesus was that star in the night sky....he still is. He is the way, the truth, and the life...he shines like a star in the universe. What does he call us to do - follow him and be stars. It's easy to fade into the background - easy to just be one of the crowd, doing what they do, being of the world, giving in to complaining and arguing. It's hard to be a star...but it's what we're called to be. Jesus said if He lives in us, then we are the light of the world. Everyone wants to be a star in their heart of hearts. People talk about wanting to make a difference and leaving a legacy. The challenge for our group as we head to Tuscaloosa this Friday, March 9th through Tuesday, March 13th is to shine like stars. There's only one way to do it - look to the brightest star of all, Jesus. On our own, we will fade into the background with complaining and arguing. But if we fix our eyes on Jesus, we will be a reflection of Him, and we will shine like stars in the universe.
I just finished Radical by David Platt yesterday afternoon. This book challenged me and stretched me. It does a wonderful job of convicting us where we need it most. What are we seeking after? Here is an excerpt from the last chapter of the book...sums it up pretty well!
"Throughout this book we have explored a variety of bold claims about our purpose in life that are contained in the gospel yet contradicted by the American dream. Claims such as these: Real success is found in radical sacrifice. Ultimate satisfaction is found not in making much of ourselves but in making much of God. The purpose of our lives transcends the country and culture in which we live. Meaning is found in community, not individualism; joy is found in generosity, not materialism; and truth is found in Christ, not universalism. Ultimately, Jesus is a reward worth risking everything to know, experience, and enjoy."
If Jesus is the truth, giver of life to the full, and has my best in mind...why don't I always live life loved and trust in Him completely? Why don't I go to any and all lengths to tell everyone about the Savior? I hope you'll read this book...get out of your comfort zone...and get a little more Radical!
Last night at HUB, we talked about our attitude. What is your attitude when you serve? (This question in preparation for our trip to Tuscaloosa). What is your daily attitude with your friends or family? We all know selfish people and selfless people. They stick out. The selfish person can take a room full of optimistic people and with a few complaining remarks and a few selfish desires, turn the entire mood of the group towards negativity. Selfless people can take a room full of apathetic people and with his/her leadership push and challenge the group toward a positive attitude. Selfish people can be toxic. Unfortunately, selfishness is one of the biggest struggles we each face. We are so self-absorbed. I want it my way because it's going to make me happy and comfortable. Talk about our sinful nature coming out. But what about Jesus? What was he like? I mean really if you think about someone who deserves to have things go his way - I would probably nominate the Son of God. Whether it be his divinity, righteousness, or holiness - I would presume he would deserve to have things go his way. And yet like Jesus so often shows us, he is the opposite of this world. Take a look at Philippians 2:1-11...
"Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."
We should have the same attitude as Jesus. And what was his attitude? Selfless. There was never a more selfless person. He was selfless to the point of completely denying himself and dying on the cross for you and for me. And so if we are to have the same attitude as Jesus, then we are to die to ourself daily. Daily we are to put our needs and desires second to those of others. Don't be "that guy." Don't be that selfish person who ruins the spirit of the group. As we go to Tuscaloosa, we will be serving as one body. I don't want to be that selfish person who brings the group down, rather I hope to have the same selfless attitude as Christ Jesus, putting others' needs before my own. We can't do it on our own though. We have to look to Him.
Last night at HUB, we did part two of God's radical love and pursuit of our hearts. We looked again at Luke 15 and the two camps of people. Notorious sinners v. Pharisees. Jesus was spending time, eating meals, and befriending "tax collectors and sinners" to the disgust of the Pharisees. Both groups need grace. Both groups are sinners. One of my RUF campus ministers at Furman would always say: "You're never so bad that you stand outside of God's grace, and you're never so good that you don't stand in need of God's grace." The notorious sinners feel that they don't deserve God's love and grace - but you're never too far away. The Pharisees feel that they have done enough good things to earn God's love and grace - but see grace is a free gift, you can't earn it. So, Jesus tells them three parables. Last week we talked about the first one: The Lost Sheep. Then he goes on to tell about a lost coin, and finally we end with the most detailed and gripping one, the Parable of the Lost (or Prodigal) Son. I think it would be better to call it the Parable of the Lost Sons or the Parable of the Loving Father.
It's incredibly hard to do this story justice in just a small blog post. So for the full impact, go ahead and read Luke 15:11-32. Don't have a bible? Check it out here on Bible Gateway: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke%2015:11-32&version=NLT
The son looks his father in the eye and says I want my inheritance. Basically, the son looks his dad in the eye and says "I wish you were dead. I would rather have money from you than any form of a relationship." His father consents, gives him his inheritance, and the son goes off to a far country. He then spends all of his money, every dime. Soon a famine comes and after a series of events he decides he'll go back to his dad, apologize for everything, and ask to be hired on as a servant - knowing he doesn't deserve to be accepted back as a son. This is what I love. Verse 20: “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him." Every single day since the son left, the father would walk outside, look down the long road, and hope that his son would return. His servants even knew about it. He would come out of his house and with hope ask his servants..."Have you seen him? Have you seen my son today?" "No, sir," they would reply. Embarrassed, they would look down and walk away. Everyday this same routine. "What about today? Have you seen my son today? Maybe today is the day he will come home?" "I'm sorry, sir, but we haven't seen anyone today." And then "today" arrived. The Father walks outside and looks down the road. Off in the distance he sees someone approaching. Frantically, he asks his servants - "Do you see that?! Do you see someone coming up the road?! Do we have any visitors coming today??" With that, he takes off. Slowly at first and as the person comes more into view he realizes it's his son. Now he's sprinting. As he nears his son he throws his arms open and embraces his lost son. Kisses him. Beams at him. The son begins his well planned speech. The one about how he doesn't deserve to be a son, but maybe he could be a hired servant. I loved how the father doesn't even acknowledge what the son is saying. He immediately begins calling servants to prepare for the biggest celebration of all times. A party to celebrate his son who was lost, but now is found; a son who was dead, but now is alive. Enter: elder brother. Remember my changed title? The Parable of the Lost Sons. There were two sons. This elder son is filled with anger and bitterness. He lashes out at his Father - "All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!" Bitterness. Anger. Rage. His heart is so hard. There is not an ounce of joy that his brother has returned. He can't even say "my brother" he calls his brother "that son of yours." Two lost sons. One loving Father. Notice how the Father leaves the party to care for his older son. He ran down the road for the younger son. You see, the Father always comes after us. He comes running after us when we have distanced ourselves from him. And he comes gently up to us when we have become a slave to our own hard hearts. He is a loving Father and he will go to any lengths to bring us from lost to found, dead to alive. He radically loves us and pursues our hearts.
Last night at HUB we talked about the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. I think this parable demonstrates the radical love and pursuit of God after our hearts. Jesus tells the parable in light of a situation at hand. The Pharisees are judging Jesus for hanging out with "tax collectors and notorious sinners." They are appalled that he associates with them and even eats meals with them. He then tells them a story of a shepherd who leaves his flock of 99 to look for 1 sheep who has wondered off. When the shepherd finds the sheep, he throws him over his shoulders and carries him back to the flock - rejoicing that his lost sheep is found. Isn't it the same with us and God? When we wonder off, he goes searching for us. Notice: it isn't the sheep who turns around. This means it doesn't have to take until we come to our senses, start getting it right, and turn back to God. God comes searching for us. So no matter how far your feel from God, know that He is searching for you at this very moment. Jesus ends the parable expressing that more joy is felt over one repentant sinner than over 99 "righteous" men who do not repent at all. I love that oxymoron. You see "no one is righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:10).
We then watched a video that has had over 16 million hits on YouTube. Watch it - I promise you'll enjoy it and it will make you think. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IAhDGYlpqY
I have been reading a fantastic book this past week: Tina Fey's Bossypants. I literally laugh audibly every time I pick up this book. From another room, Matt wonders what I could possibly be laughing so hard at - it's hard to believe it's just from reading a book. She constantly pokes fun at herself...a quality that I truly admire. Have a little free time this weekend? Pick up Bossypants!
"This happened so that the power of God could be seen in him."
This Sunday at HUB we talked again about radical living. I shared two stories about two individuals who have endured very, very hard things in their lives. We all know such stories. The first I shared was about a women who went against doctors' recommendations that she abort her baby, the second about a young person having a parent die. Why did this happen? I know both of these individuals have asked God this question. Why did this awful thing happen? We ask our own questions...why did something happen in my life, or my friends life? Or why am I certain way or why am I not a certain way? Why are my parents divorced? Why aren't I taller/shorter, skinnier/stronger? Why don't I fit in with a certain crowd?
We read about a man who was blind from birth in John 9. The disciples wanted to know...was he blind because he was being punished for his own sins? Was he blind because his parents sinned and this was the consequence? The Message translation has Jesus saying back "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do." Or as the NIV translation said about the man's blindness - "This has happened so that the power of God could be seen in him."
Why do bad things happen to good people? It's a question asked so often. But look what Jesus says - "there is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do." God is bigger than the tragedy. God is good. God is at work. Jesus gave sight to this blind man. What about the other two people? Well my friend who lost a parent - she talks about that being the very event which led her to having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She said if God could take something as awful as losing a parent and bring her to Himself through it - then that is a beautiful thing. She decided to "look instead for what God can do" through her loss - "the power of God can be seen in her."
And what about the woman who was told to abort her baby? You see she was a missionary and through contaminated food or water she contracted amoebic dysentery - meaning she had a parasite in her intenstines. She went into a coma and only through very strong antibiotics did she heal. But before she contracted the disease, she had become pregnant. Only they didn't find out until afterward. After the amoebic dysentery, after the coma, after the strong antibiotic. The doctors told her the baby was a hazard to her own health. The doctors told her the strong medicines had done irreversible damage to her baby. IF (and that was a big if) the baby survived, it would be severely disabled. She said she was going to keep the baby. She cited her Christian faith as her reason. During her pregnancy she almost lost the baby four times. But, on August 14, 1987 Pam Tebow gave birth to Tim Tebow. She decided to "look instead for what God can do" through her struggle - "the power of God can be seen in her."
To God be the glory forever and ever.
I have just started reading Radical by David Platt. Two chapters down, several more to go. I'm not necessarily going to talk as much about the book at this point as I am about the idea of the word Radical. I've decided this semester to let the theme word for my talks with high schoolers and middle schoolers be the word Radical. Sometimes my talks are based on a particular book, book in the bible, or theme. For the first time, I'm letting just one word be the thread for my talks. The particular definition I'm using is "very different from the usual or traditional." The point? Jesus lived radically and calls us to live radically different from the world. Last night at HUB we discussed Romans 12:1-2 "And so, dear brothers and sisters,I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." Things of focus:
1. God wants us to give our bodies, our lives to him, completely because of all that He has done for us. I shared about how much I HATE wasting time. Literally, hate it. If I feel like I've wasted time or part of my day it just completely puts me in a funk. It's because I'm doing things for me. I'm living life according to me - and not giving my days and time to the Lord.
2. I want to live a life that's extraordinary. I don't want to just have an ordinary life. I don't want it to be predictable. Whether it's ordinary or extraordinary - This doesn't come from the things we do or have. It's not based on how much money we have or don't have, how great of a career we have or don't have, how great or not great our grades are, etc. It comes completely from why we do what we do and who we do it for. If we do things for ourselves, or the approval of others, or for fame/glory...it will all disappoint. If I do them for the Lord, if I am motivated by my relationship with Him, all other things will fall into place. If I start and end my day with my eyes fixed on Jesus...my day goes from ordinary to extraordinary.
3. God wants to transform each one of us into a new person by changing the way you think. He wants to change the focus from ourselves and the world to him. He wants to transform us into who he created us to be. The more we know Him, the more we know our true selves. The more we allow him to transform us, the more our lives move from ordinary to extraordinary.
All of these things are radical: very different from the usual or traditional. The world tells you to live life for yourself. The world tells you to take charge of your own destiny. Deny yourself? Get a bigger picture than yourself? Give your life to Christ? It's radical - it's not what the world tells you will bring you satisfaction. But guess what...the world lies. There is only one truth, one origin for satisfaction, one source for real and life-giving joy - Jesus Christ. It's a New Year - instead of making resolutions to "be better" why not fix our eyes on the one who came to bring us life to the full.
Here's the video I showed last night. It's of Tom Brady - 3 time Super Bowl winner. 2 time MVP of the Super Bowl. He should have it all, right? Then why his question at the end? When the commentator asks him - So what's the answer? - I would refer back to our verse, Romans 12:1-2. Tom Brady Interview