“To keep loving someone is an act of bravery. While it deals with matters of the heart, it is not for the lighthearted. There is nothing weak about loving someone. Nothing timid about it. It is for the strong, the ones willing to let love ruin them.” ~Jamie Varon
Lord, teach me how you love. Teach me of an active love. A love that is always in pursuit of the object of my love. Teach me of an unconditional love. When everyone else doubts, and everyone else accuses, teach me to lovingly trust instead. Teach me to fill my gaps of skepticism with love. Teach me of a sacrificial love. May I know the cost that loving often brings, and choose to love anyway. May I not be afraid of the cost of sharing my love. Teach me of a fearless love. When everyone else runs, when I myself want to run, may I draw nearer Lord. Trusting your love to cover all in these moments. Teach me of a relentless love. A love that comes after people, one that does not surrender to a resistant, and hesitant heart, but a love strong enough to work through that resistance with Your unstoppable love. Grant me a love so strong that it creates in me a burden for those suffering around me. May this burden not leave me paralyzed in pain though, but draw me to your side, and their side. Lord, teach me how you love.
“Even if my heart turns black and blue, I will love you.” ~ ‘If You Fall’ JJ Heller
I visited a new church a few weeks back while back home with my family. And it got my brain going on the church and it’s mission.
Before service, the pastor got up to give an analogy using his family as a example. He began to tell us how his boys are currently using the word, “relatable” with their friends as their new catch phrase. If a friend would be complaining about the load of homework he had, the pastor’s kid would respond with, “relatable,”. As if to say he was experiencing the same thing. He then paralleled that with his church. Explaining to us how maybe this atmosphere was different that we are used to for a church setting, the lights, the music, the technology, ect. He explained that this is their way of making the gospel, church, and Jesus Christ more relatable to unchurched individuals.
Let me begin with this. I’m involved with church organizations that are also using fancy lights, different music styles, and updated technology. And this doesn’t bother me. Because maybe some people are drawn to a unique atmosphere that doesn’t fit their stereotypical, condemning church mentality. So they come in. And when they come in, they find Jesus.
But when our attempt to make the church a relatable place pushes Jesus out of it, we must reevaluate our choices.
And that, that is the very fear that struck me this Sunday morning. I looked for Him. I looked for Him in the worship, but all I found was feel good lyrics and a performance with fancy lights. I looked for Him in the word, but all I found was a self-help motivation. I looked for Him in the silence leading to and following prayer and worship, but all I found were desperate attempts to fill that silence with noise, any noise.
We are called to be missionaries of the gospel. To proclaim truth. To spread joy. To heal the wounded. We are called to bring Jesus to the lost. And to do this, I understand we have to reach different individuals in different ways. Even Paul himself said, ” I have become all things to all men, so that by some means I may save some,”(1 Corinthians 9:22). But I don’t believe that in doing this, Paul ever compromised who Jesus was for the sake of anyone’s salvation. Because fact is, if we are going to bring someone to salvation, it’s going to be through Jesus and His untainted identify, not some artificial Jesus. If we think that a cheap imitation of jesus is going to save someone’s life, we are sorely mistaking. Because just as easy as they accept this lie, they will loose grip of it as temptation and heartache come.
I had the amazing privilege to spend spring break in Nashville with some classmates for a mission trip this past week. The following is the final reflection I wrote for my university’s blog:
This past week has been an amazing week full of service projects, community cultivation, and unexpected works of the Lord. As our team spent spring break in Nashville, I believe each member of our team encountered the Lord in new and exciting ways, probably in forms and places we never expected too.
I’m certain that going into this week, we all had our own expectations of what the week would look like, what it would hold for us, and those we encountered, as well as what the Lord wanted to do in our own lives through the experience. Though I knew it before, I know even more now, that these ideas are no limitation or hindrance to God’s greater vision and plan. His ways are not our ways, nor are His thoughts our thoughts. They are so much better…
I personally had several expectations of what the week would hold. I thought I knew what the Lord wanted to teach me through this mission trip, and I thought I had an accurate assumption of what to expect from each of our outreach projects. However, as the week progressed, I realized, again, that my thoughts are but a spec in God’s great plan.
We were privileged to partner with several ministries focusing on the homeless, inner city children, and at risk young women. Going into these outreaches, I thought my previous ministry experiences would have prepared me for the things I would encounter. I quickly realized, though, this was not quiet an accurate statement. I soon began to feel inadequate and ill prepared for the tasks before me. I found myself discouraged by the lack of fruit I was seeing, and became frustrated with what I thought was failure.
It was amazing how God used these moments of discouragement and weakness to build me up in ways I did not expect. It was in these moments that I began to grasp my true level of inadequacy, but yet in a way that paralleled beautifully with God’s overshadowing grace and sufficiency.
The Lord imparted this grace and sufficiency to me one night during our worship service. He revealed to me that He was pleased with me regardless of the progress I felt I was, or was not making. He reminded me that every task I put my hands to, and every individual I encountered, had already been pre-determined and ordained by His perfect plan. There was a purpose in all of it, and as I sought Him out in this, nothing I did or failed to do, was going to hinder what He had already orchestrated.
These realizations really ministered to my heart in a way I was not expecting. Like most, I went on this trip expecting to be an influence in the lives of others. While I know the Lord surely used the things I did while in Nashville to influence those I encountered, it was hard for me to actually see this fruit throughout most of the week. However, I saw abundantly more fruit in my own life than I could have ever expected. The Lord poured blessing upon blessing to me through the whole trip. He did this in spite of my discouragement, failures, and the many distractions trying to pull my focus away from service. He continually poured life into me. He did this through our service, He did this through our prayer and worship services, and He did this through the amazing community I was blessed to build over this past week.
I went into this trip only knowing a handful of the individuals going. I was astonished at how fast a strong since of community was built in our team. Never in my life have I built such strong and deep relationships so quickly. Being that strong, Christian community is something I have prayed for to the Lord for a long time now, this was truly a blessing to my soul. As He has recently began giving me this sense of community, this trip only solidified in my heart all He has already begun.
I am so grateful for the experiences we were blessed to encounter in Nashville this spring break. I am so thankful to have been able to share in these experiences with my Regent classmate. Like many others on our team, being back from this trip only leaves me longing so much more. I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for us in the future.
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20