Friday, March 15, 2013

In Tragedy, We Have One Source for Peace

This past week has been a devastating one for the Tampa and Plant High School community. A senior, Amanda Pierce tragically died in a car accident on her way to pick up her sister in Tallahassee. While I did not have the honor of knowing Amanda, many of my students did. Sadly, this is not the first time tragedy has struck our young community. Ask any student and they can tell you the tragedies that have transpired over the years.

In my conversations with teenagers this week, a theme has been echoing in my mind: There is only one guarantee in this life. We ourselves aren't promised tomorrow. Our loved ones aren't promised tomorrow. We aren't promised any easy life, or success, or popularity, or an easy road in life. The only guarantee we have is Jesus Christ. John 16:33 reminds us of what Jesus said to his disciples as they struggled to imagine what life would be like after Jesus died - how would they carry on without standing next to their best friend? "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

This isn't the first time something tragic and inexplicable has happened, and unfortunately it isn't the last. We live in a broken world where car accidents, cancer, broken relationships, divorce, tragedy, and death exist. And Jesus warns us that life in this broken world won't be easy, and the only guarantee and the only hope we have is in Him. He has conquered death. He has conquered this broken world. The only guarantee is our relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything can change in an instant, but that never will. 

And so to me, the logical question is: What are you living for? Why live for something that we aren't promised tomorrow? Want to know how to figure out what you're living for? Look at how you spend your time. 
How are you pursuing Jesus? In what ways are you putting yourself in front of God's truth and God's grace? Where do you need to go to hear this truth? What needs to look different so that you can allow God to make you into a new person?

The time is now, my friends. 

My thoughts and prayers are with all of those who are broken during this tragic time. May we confidently and boldly claim the love and life that Jesus is offering. In him, we have peace.

Monday, March 4, 2013

When God Takes You There, Will You Go? Will You Go Wherever for Him?

We all have struggles. One of my greatest struggles is when life is chaotic, things aren’t going smoothly, someone has hurt me, etc. I begin to doubt myself. But at the center of that doubt is a lack of trust in God. I was created to live in a trusting relationship with Jesus. I cannot depend on circumstances because they are never predictable. Instead I must trust in the one who never waivers, never leaves my side, and is always consistent. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to make Micah 7:7 my “verse” for 2013. It’s the one I keep going back to and it speaks volumes to the way I let circumstances rock me. It is the encouragement I need to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.

Micah 7:7 (MSG) – But me, I’m not giving up. I’m sticking around to see what God will do. I’m waiting for God to make things right. I’m counting on God to listen to me.

The writer has such a sense of confidence in what God will do. 
I need to claim that confidence everyday!

Lately, God has been working on me. I told y’all about the book I read, Not a Fan, and now I’m getting ready to read it with my senior bible study. God is working on my heart to get me fired up and to get me excited about living for him. He is trying to show me that every moment of every day is an opportunity to live for him, to serve him, to glorify him, and to show who he is to other people.

Last week I almost turned down an opportunity to serve God. God called me to speak at Plant High's Beta Chi lunch. With nearly 200 kids coming to each lunch and speaking at all three lunches, I feared the possibility of sharing my heart, my life, and my Jesus with 600 high schoolers. As I wrestled with whether or not I would accept the invitation I read chapter 12 in Not a Fan. The chapter talks about a man who tells Jesus he will follow him anywhere. When Jesus replies and tells the man he is basically homeless, will he follow him there, you can imagine the man backpeddling. Look at what Kyle Idleman says...

The man says, “I will follow you wherever.” And Jesus points to a place that will be a threat to this man’s comfort and security and asks, “What about there?” We’re left with the impression that this wannabe follower quickly rescinded his offer. “Did I say ‘Wherever?’ This was meant to be more of a poetic expression. Figuratively speaking, I will follow you, ‘Wherever.’
Like this man we may be quick to say to Jesus, "I will follow you wherever…" but let’s move it from the general to the more specific. Where is the one place you will find it most difficult to follow Jesus? If you said to Jesus "Wherever," where do you think is the one place he would point to and say, "What about there?"
Wherever? What about in your own home? There is the tendency to carry a cross and follow Jesus, but before we walk in the door of our own home, we leave the cross on the front porch.
Instead of submitting, you stand up for your rights. Instead of serving, you sit around.
Instead of being patient, you are demanding. Instead of being encouraging, you are constantly critical.
Instead of being a spiritual leader, you are passive and apathetic in your own home. So what about there?
Wherever? What about at school? At around 8am during the week, you’ll find many fans getting out of their cars or off the bus, saying to Jesus, "You wait here. I’ll be back to get you around three.” When they clock in to school they clock out of following.
You justify greed by calling it a necessity.
You rationalize dishonesty by calling it a way to raise your GPA.
You stay quiet about your faith at school and call it being tolerant.

I put down the book slowly. Got it God. I’m supposed to do this.

God went on to use it in a way more powerful than I could have imagined. I know of at least one high schooler who God touched that day. 

This is not about me, though. This is completely about God and what God can do. What will he do with your faithfulness to him? What will he do when you go outside of your comfort zone for him? What will he do when you decide to live for him, go all in for him, instead of holding part of yourself back? Claim Micah 7:7 boldly and with confidence. "But me, I'm not giving up. I'm sticking around to see what God will do. I'm waiting for God to make things right. I'm counting on God to listen to me."