“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
Fifteen teenagers, all under the age of 16 would not denounce Jesus, and because of this, they were beheaded. Not a pretty headliner, not easy small talk, just a cold, dark reality.
I saw this news while scrolling through my social media this evening. Realization hit me hard in that moment. Here I am about to spend the rest of my night watching Netflix, while others are being violently murdered for simply loving and honoring Jesus. By their life and death, no doubt.
And what am I doing? What am I really doing in this life to create a lasting effect? What chances am I taking? Am I even taking chances? What am I truly willing to risk? What is God trying to tell me, through the cloud of my selfishness and my encompassing need for security, that I’m missing?
We live in a blessed society where we can pray in public, share the Gospel, and worship freely without fearing for our lives. Yet, sometimes, I believe we live like we can’t. We don’t fear violent acts of death, but instead, we fear social rejection and status decay.
We don’t speak up for injustice because we don’t want to go against the current. Its just too hard we say. We don’t speak up and share prayer with a needy soul because we fear their rejection will lead to our low self esteem. We just won’t bother them we say. We don’t boldly share the gospel because we don’t want to be labeled the Jesus freak. Surely they already know we say.
Well, I’m going to start taking a note from the brave Christians who have gone before me. Maybe you can brake the current. Maybe that needy soul would turn to Jesus with the offer of your prayer. Maybe someone is just waiting for someone to tell them more about this Jesus.
Not everyone is a blessed as I am to live in a place where faith in Jesus isn’t a death sentence. I want to live like it isn’t. I want to be motivated by the fear of what will happen if I don’t speak up, instead of the possibility of what will happen if I do speak up. Hell is a reality, and I want to quit pretending it isn’t.
I want to speak up. Speak out. I want to pray. Pray for and with. Seek needs. Fulfill needs. I want to fight against the current. And pull others with me. I don’t wanna play it low key, I don’t wanna play it safe, I wanna fight for the cause. I’m gonna tune out my own voice, so I can follow His better.
I’m blessed to not have to die for Jesus, I can at least live for Him.
“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” Romans 14:7-9
“I’ve got nothing of my own to give you, but this light that shines on me, shines on you too.” ~David Crowder ‘Stars’
In my mind, the biggest differences between life with God, and life without God, is summed up in one word: hope. A lot of people think that becoming a believer and follower of God will rid your life of all heartache, but anyone who has been a Christian for any period of time can tell you that’s not true. Having Jesus in your life does not exempt you from the brokenness and troubles of this world. However, it does give you a hope to hold on to through the hard times. Hope that Jesus will not let go of you (Deuteronomy 31:6), hope that He will use the hard times for your good (Romans 8:28), hope that you will be rewarded for your perseverance (Hebrews 10:35), and hope that even though life doesn’t always make sense to us, He’s working it into his glorious plan (Isaiah 55:8). So what if you don’t have Jesus Christ in your life? Where is your hope? The only things left for you to put it in are temporary, unreliable, and often full of lies. And if you search everywhere but in Jesus for hope, your going to come up hopeless. You just are. I know, because I have been there.
I have tried to fix my life based off my own strength, I have tried to find answers based on my own comprehension, and I have tried to overcome sin without God’s power. This was me trying to live life without God. This was hopelessness. I now know, that on my own, I am not enough, but I am not on my own. Life is going to be hard and it is going to try to knock me down. Regardless of what life throws at me though, I have hope in Jesus.
Trying to live my life without the hope that comes only by Jesus has given me a heart for the hopeless. I have spent so much time trying to be strong, and trying to figure things out without taking hold of the hope found in Him. Now that I know there is endless hope in Him, I want to guide others to it too. I want them to experience the joy in redemption that I’ve found and live in.
I recently stepped into a new position where I’ve met many new people, all from different walks of life, with their own sets of struggles. This has remedied me, again, how broken we are as humans. It has given me a fresh passion to help those in this world find hope. Brokenness is something that we are all born into, but hope is something that we receive with God that makes our broken pieces something beautiful.
There is a song by David Crowder called “Stars.”The last few lines of this song have been ringing through my mind for weeks now. They go: “I wanna shine, I wanna be light, I wanna tell you it’ll be alright. I wanna shine, and I wanna fly, just to tell you now, It’ll all be alright. Cause I’ve got nothing of my own to give to you, but this light that shines on me, shines on you too.” I sing this song for two reasons. First, it is a prayer for me. Sometimes I need to remind myself- It will be ok. Second, I pray is for others. There are so many people that I know need to hear it. My prayer is that my life can be light so that through me they can see and believe there is a hope that cannot be shaken.
But there is a flip side to this. So many of the broken people in this world without hope, don’t want the hope Jesus offers. My personality is one of perfectionism. I always want to “fix” things, and that includes people. So I have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that many people don’t want what I have with Jesus. I wanna tell them about Him, and then watch their lives fill with hope. It just isn’t that easy though. I have to realize that the most effective thing I can do for others isn’t always what I think it is. Sometime all I can do is pray. And by “all I can do,” I don’t mean prayer isn’t effective. Though too often I go to prayer as a last resort, only after my attempts have failed.
I recently read in a commentary on Philippians about Paul’s attitude toward the church. Warren Wiersbe states that Paul has the church in his mind, heart, and prayers. I think this is key to spread the hope of Jesus. First, we have those around us in our minds. We think about them frequently. Then, we have them in our heart. We care about them, and show them this through our actions. Lastly, we pray for them. We hand them over to God, knowing He already has their future in His hands.
Jesus is the hope for this broken world, and we are to be the ones to share Him. But we have to be willing to trust His timing and His ways.
“What if we stood with hearts wide open, ready to start again? What if we let God’s grace take over, learn to forgive and forget? What if we choose to love?” ~ NewSong ‘Choose to love’
I know I’m not the only one who knows what its like to be hurt by the ones we love the most. I’m sure it’s safe to say that everyone has been deeply hurt by someone, who at one point in their life, was very close to them. Sometimes there are no answers to why people turn their backs on us. But unfortunately, the truth is that sometimes friendships end with no explanation.
I’ve experienced this betrayal of friends a couple times over the past couple years of my life. Through it, I have been able to learn some life changing lessons about true forgiveness. I’ve learned to forgive those who never sought forgiveness, people who just decided to walk out on the friendship. Because of these experiences, I see the necessity of forgiveness as it relates to my own well-being. I understand that if I choose not to forgive it effects my heart, and my relationship with God. God has taught me that if I choose not to forgive, I choose to let bitterness take root in my heart. Forgiveness, real forgiveness, is hard, but now, by God’s grace, I know it to be possible.
But what about once the relationship is already dissolved. I can understand forgiveness being vital to keep friendships alive, but what about once the friendship has already died away, and forgiveness is being sought afterwards? What happens when you’ve done all you can to keep a friendship alive only to fail in your attempt, then after time has built walls between you, they seek to make amends. How do you break down these walls? I’m really not sure. And if I’m to be honest, I don’t know that I want to. These walls protect me from getting hurt again.
Maybe what I have to realize, is that just because I choose to forgive, does not mean things go back to the way they once were. When trust is tore down, it has to be rebuilt. But this doesn’t mean we withhold forgiveness until the trust is back. Sometimes the trust may never even return, and that’s ok. Forgiveness has to learn to love people where there are and for who they are right now. Maybe this is what God is wanting to teach me right now, forgiveness that does nothing for me. In the past, forgiving kept my heart from bitterness. This time, however, the bitterness is already gone. Now, by forgiving, I’m learning to welcome someone back into my life with a new role. I’m learning to welcome them back strictly to show love to them, expecting nothing in return.
This is a new realm of forgiveness that I’m not quite comfortable with. It involves letting go of what was and what I wanted things to be. It means simply taking what is, for what it is now, requiring nothing more. Afterall, that is what God did for me and you.