What’s in the Way?

In first Philippians, Paul writes to the Church of Philippi with love and adoration, he tells them that they have done well in maintaining the good work of Christ Jesus; these people for the most part were not struggling with large issues such a deceit, sexual immorality and false teachings in the church. This is a fairly successful church, that has kept on the right track. However, Paul reminds the church to press towards the prize of Christ, the eternal calling of God rather than the earthly success of the church or personal success, whatever was keeping their eyes diverted from Christ.

“13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” Philippians 3:13-15 (KJV)

It can be easy to recognize things that are overtly contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ, we know the ten commandments, those are the things that keep us away from God. So, we’re good right?

It’s not so simple. Paul lets us know in verse fifteen that even those who seem to ‘have it in the bag’ so to speak (some translations say those who are mature), that God will reveal any thing that causes them to divert their attention away from the prize of Christ. In my life, this would be my habits, daily rituals, my ‘me time’, and my comfort.

The interesting thing is, God doesn’t call us to be creatures of habit, but creatures of HIS calling. It’s okay to be organized, to have a plan, but once these routines become something that keeps us away from God… that’s when the devil wins. This is something I had a hard time understanding until recently. I realized that just because I wasn’t “sinning” didn’t mean that I was glorifying God. And in not glorifying God, Satan is, by default, favored. What does this look like? When God calls you to stop and pray for someone, but it doesn’t quite fit into the daily routine, or when you know you need to give someone a call but you just know they’re going to take time away from your tasks, the devil wins. When we let our habits and routines get in the way of what God is asking of you, love loses.

I am the first one to admit guilt of this, I get so wrapped up in my own tasks, feeling successful and accomplished that I forget to listen to where God is leading me. But in doing this I miss out on valuable moments where God could have used me in someone’s life or where someone could have spoken into my life. I often miss the mark in striving for God’s eternal calling for my life.

But why do we do this? Why is it so easy for our hearts and minds to wander?

We put too much stalk in our flesh. Our successes, our daily habits, our routine, what we seem to accomplish on our own. All of these things have more weight than they should.

For the last three months I have been in my home for the summer. To keep myself busy I took a summer class at a local JC, worked a ton, spent time with friends and family, did anything I could to keep myself occupied. Everything was positive, and everything benefitted my life in some way; I felt accomplished and successful! I was living life like a real adult.

But I forgot something key, I forgot to intentionally listen to where God was calling me. I often chose Netflix over God’s word in my down time. I forgot my true calling and what I am really striving for, because I was so caught up in my earthly success. But Paul reminds us that we are to count ALL things as loss, because they are nothing compared to Christ. Paul even goes as far as to say they are garbage! They are disposable, and fleeting, but Christ lasts forever. Christ is the only thing truly worth striving for.

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”

Philippians 3:7-9 (NIV)

This is not to say that success is bad, that having a routine is a negative thing, but that separation from God leads us down a path that is full of loss. And no matter how much we accomplish it is pointless without the cause of Christ at the center of it. So, closing thoughts: listen to where God is leading you, act on God’s calling, and love regardless of how it may interrupt your routine.

Father God,

Lord thank you for the ways you have blessed me this summer and in my life as a whole. But I have fallen short in keeping my eyes on you. I have focused my life on loss rather than eternity and your callings for my life. God help me to recalibrate my focus on you, remind me to count all things apart from you as loss and to not put so much stalk in earthly gains. Lord humble me and use me to bring glory to you. Bring me out of my comfort zone, and rather than making time for you, let me be found in you and make time for the other things. Lord help me to be a creature of your calling. I love you Lord.

Amen

Advertisements

God’s Race

numv4974.jpg

My second year of college has come to an end and I’m flooded with nostalgia and this unshakable feeling that life just goes too quickly. I’ve grown up hearing the classic phrases like: “time flies” and “it’s over in a blink” and it never seemed entirely true. It never resonated. But lately, it seems like I’ve been begging time to slow down. I haven’t been able to keep up in the race. Being overly involved and keeping a packed schedule is something I’ve always done, it makes me feel efficient and productive if I rarely have time breath; fewer chances to fall behind if I’m constantly on the go. Much of what I’ve experienced is a result of both human nature and a society that we’ve built to be better, faster and stronger than the previous years. There’s a perpetual climb to be the best, to make it big, to have more than you started with, and rise above the rest in the shortest amount of time possible.

Of course, we hear the success stories like Bill Gates and every movie star ever, and think if they can do it, I can do it. So, it’s not just a race to the top, but a game of comparison, as if we were all running the same race. I see this all too often in the Christian community, comparing works and faith milestones like stats from a video game. I find myself falling into this groove scrolling through social media, talking with friends, overhearing conversations and even looking to those in the pulpit. Its hard to not compare yourself against your neighbor, its natural and taught to us from day one as a part of our culture. Everything from organized sports to test grades and GPA’s are designed to reduce us to numbers so that we can be compared against one another.

While it’s easy to say that these things don’t define us or that we’re more than a stat on a screen, its hard to look past something you have been continually reminded of since you were a child. It becomes a fact of life, unavoidable and unfavorable for most of us.

But there’s good news, actual truth, determined by the one who created the stars in space and spoke the world into creation; truth spoken over you by the one who formed you in your mother’s womb.

I want to start by saying that there’s been a misconception, a point of confusion that has been present since Jesus’s ministry all those years ago. The world is set up to have humans run the same race, to reach the same goal, on the same track as fast as we can. The pharisees of old were constantly disputing Jesus’s ministry, because it didn’t look like theirs or follow the guidelines originally set (Mark 12:13-17, Matthew 22:23-33). They tested him and questioned every move he made, but because it was a righteous path designed by God, his plan won in the end.

If you’re anything like me, you hate running on a track and you kind of hate running all together. I see these beautiful people jogging on the beach, they look like their having a blast and winning life, and I think to myself “why can’t I enjoy running and look great while doing it?”. God didn’t create us to all be runners; just like each creature in the animal kingdom is specially adapt to live and thrive in its predestined environment. Take for example the desert fox, perfectly camouflaged to its desert landscape, light but insulated fur to survive the windy nights and cold mornings, and gigantic ears that act as built in radiators for thermal regulation. God designed this animal to be a top predator in the one of the most inhospitable environments in all the earth; he designed it for a purpose with a specific ecological role in mind. Without this keystone species, the entire ecosystem would collapse. In a similar way, God created us to live and thrive on the path he designed for us.

Down to our natural inclinations, to the experiences we’ve had throughout our lives, God designed us to go the path he set before us. I was not designed to follow my best friend’s path, or my mother’s or sister’s, and not that pastor’s path either; I was not designed or equipped for those paths. However, I’m perfectly and divinely suited for my own race, a race intentionally created to lead me to my Heavenly Father in relationship and eternal life. And for me, this race will be better than any path I could’ve chosen or created for myself, because it surpasses my understanding of time and space. It fulfills a role in God’s Kingdom that can only be filled by me, because He created it to be so.

We all have our own race to run, a race that only we are prepared for, but we are running to the same good, good God who is holy and righteous with a plan that encapsulates humankind with love. A God who tells us that he will not allow us to fall but will raise us up. If your path isn’t looking like your neighbor, know that God is doing immeasurably more in your life than you even realize and that you were created specifically for this life, God has made you able and will not leave you or forsake you.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions; it is by grace that you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 2:4-7

He has already payed the ultimate price and beaten death, with all of that invested into us why would our God leave us now? He won’t because he is faithful and his love is more than we could ever imagine. With that being said, time can fly, it can zoom by and I can relax and not worry, because I know that God’s plan for my life is in full swing.

I’m right in step where I need to be. I’m winning my race.

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

Ephesians 1:4-5

Father God,

Thank you for the ways you have divinely orchestrated my life and thank you for blessings that are to come. God you are faithful, you will not let me down. No matter how fast life seems to go, I know that I am on a path, a race running as fast as I can to you. Lord help me in discerning and give me wisdom to see your hand at work in my life and in the midst of pouring rain or sunny skies. God you are holy and true, pure love and righteous. You have justified my life and atoned my sins, pulled me out of the grave and given me new life. Thank you, Lord, thank you a million times over.

God, I ask that whoever has read this will see you for the loving father that you are and seek to know you more as you have sought them since the beginning of time.

In the name of Jesus Christ,

Amen

Barricades Built By Me

fceda3c6-5a8b-4d1a-b730-e444dced2d87.jpg

A barricade is defined as something blocking or delaying movement. We often talk about barricades as something built to keep the enemy out, but what if it’s to keep something in? Built to hold on to something meager and fleeting, but still terribly difficult to give up.

I’ve built barricades in my soul, intentionally and unintentionally. I’ve built up this wall around my academics thinking that keeping it intact will give me control over that area of my life, I can fix it, I can make this perfect. We all have that built up barricade that we’ve tricked ourselves into supporting, whether it’s success or wealth or popularity that we’re vainly propping up, they all block God’s movement in our lives.

Coming into my fourth semester of college I fell into the mindset that many do, I didn’t think that God wanted to be involved in certain parts of my life. Academics for example, I assumed God wasn’t interested in my chemistry grade or the huge test I’m worried about. That’s my responsibility, I’ll let him have the rest. God doesn’t concern himself with such petty human ailments, but I failed to realize that regardless of how “petty” my trails are, God is concerned with me. And me means all the parts of my life. He wants to break me free of these chains that I have put on myself so that he can move in my life.

In Psalms 34:4-5 King David says “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” God is concerned with my chemistry grade and my final exams, but because he is a God of power and action he wants to deliver us from ALL fears and anxieties. When we fix our eyes on God there isn’t room for barricades and there isn’t room for fear or shame.

Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ we have been delivered from death! So why am I experiencing testing anxiety? Why are we all so worried, our God has defeated the ultimate enemy and we have been set apart to live an eternal life with a God poured out his love and mercy on us. This chemistry stuff is nothing compared to the sacrifice that Jesus made for me!

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

Titus 3:4-7

This isn’t to discount anxiety and fears, because they are real and human. However, as followers of Christ we have the power of Christ in us (Galatians 2:20). God is faithful and powerful and allowing him into all the parts of our lives will allow him to move and work like never before. As we set our hearts and eyes on Christ we begin to see his Kingdom agenda and the deep desire he has to eradicate our barricades and fears.

Barricades built by me, I refute you, I deny you power, my God pulls you down.

Barricades built by me recycled and reused for the glory of the one who saves.

Barricades built by me no more.

God,

I know you hear my worried thoughts and anxious mind, help me to tune into you. Guide me in surrender and show me your glory, I want to draw near to you God. I pray that as I enter into this week of tests and trials that you remind me that I have eternal life with you regardless of the grades I receive, that you have your hand in my academics just as much as the other areas of my life. God open my mind to receive the knowledge of your love and grace, renew my heart and mold it to resemble yours. I love you Lord and thank you for the ways you have blessed me.

Amen.

Jesus, I will

Trust.

It’s something we’re told we have to do, it’s the punch line of 90% of the sermons I’ve heard in my life. It’s this magic key that unlocks the secrets of the universe, but how exactly do I trust God? I can say I trust God with my life and I can say I trust his plan, but what does that look like.

It looks like total abandon and stillness before our faithful God.

This isn’t something that came to me in a premonition, but it’s something that has been a constant battle and I imagine will continue to be so. About a month ago I decided that I wanted to learn how to trust God in new ways and more deeply, I wanted to see what this trust everyone’s been talking about looks like in action. I prayed for a challenge.

The good news is God answers prayers! And I was challenged. Not just in my trust in God but the trust in my relationships and in myself.

“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It is a powerful thing to realize that the God who created the heavens and the earth holds your soul in the cusp of his hands. Isaiah 40:31 is talking about that realization. Hope is defined as “the feeling of expectation”, those who wait in expectation on the Lord will soar on the wings of eagles, they will walk through this life and be welcomed into eternity by the open arms of our Heavenly Father.

Faith is not found without trust. It is contradictory to have faith in God and to believe he is who he says he is, but to leave him out of important decisions regarding finances, relationships, family and the list goes on. We do this all the time. We forget that God has called us to seek him first, no matter how big or small the issue is.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:33‬ ‭NIV‬‬

If you trust your very salvation and eternal dwelling to God, why is it so difficult to trust him in the day to day decisions? For me, it’s the illusion of control that keeps me from trusting. I like to have things neat and tidy, planned with a bow tied around it and I avoid anything that unties that pretty little bow. So when I prayed this prayer of asking for my trust to be strengthened and renewed, I knew full and well that God would untie my bow first and foremost. God can’t work within a box, just like he can’t work within a bound heart.

The first step of putting your trust into action as allowing God to unbundle your heart and shine a light on the places that have been dark for far too long. Surrendering your heart to God is more than accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior. It is a forest fire burning through the dead overgrowth and preparing the way for new growth and life.

It’s painful letting go of things, people, familiarity. This is where trust and faith come in. Having trust that God works all things out for your good, trusting that he is faithful and will see you through.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The second part to trust is listening. God is speaking to you and he wants to guide you in this new unfamiliar territory, but we must tune into him. Listening to God is hard, because he doesn’t always speak in the omnipotent, outer body voice we expect. He speaks in persistent thoughts, through people and he subtly reveals his voice to us piece by piece. Being in tune to this is key and it happens through time and prayer and patient expectation. Jesus went to quiet places alone to pray and to listen to his father and he calls us to the same practice.

The last part of trust is action. Courage for this action is found when you realize the gravity of who you are trusting and knowing how to act is found in listening to the voice of the Lord. Action is saying “Jesus I will, because I trust that you know my heart and that you will never fail me for you are faithful and love me.”

This journey of trust is not an easy one but it reaps an abundant harvest of love and blessings far beyond what we can imagine.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Dear Lord

Help me to hear your voice more clearly, make me attentive to where you are leading me and help me to lead others in a way that is pleasing to you. Lord in all I do let me give you the glory. Continue to challenge me God, let my faith and trust in you be strengthened.

Amen

Goldfish Are Beautiful

601d113e-9034-4ddc-a3b1-4f010d7ba4e7.jpg

Sometimes I feel like a goldfish in an ocean. I grew up in a smallish town in the Central Valley, no parking meters, no aesthetically pleasing coffee shops and cafes; the yearly fair and rodeo are our big events and it was a huge deal when we got an Ulta about two years ago. Lets just say when I tell my college friends about my hometown, they think I’m joking.

The city I live in currently is filled to the brim with 1.3 million people and at least half that many tourists. I didn’t notice the differences as a freshman, mainly because I was thinking of a million other things then, but for some reason it matters now. I feel dumb and “uncultured” when I don’t know a band or some event that apparently everyone else in the world knows. Basically, I have very little in common with the people around me, and I feel out of place a lot of the time.

For a while I thought something was wrong with me; maybe I’m not smart enough to get this “big city” stuff? Or maybe since I went to public school I’m just not as educated as the rest of my cohorts?  I really started to beat myself up, because I don’t fit in and I’m not “cool” enough to stand out. I’ve even considered dropping out of college and going home (I’m only three weeks in, pray for me).

Then it hit me, by thinking all of these awful things about myself and who I’ve become, I am in fact insulting God’s handiwork and the plan he has for me. It was no accident that I was born and raised in a small town; my interests and passions are not by accident. I’m a small town girl at heart and I need to remember that that’s okay! I love talking about science and the environment, I love comedies, I don’t like murder mystery books, I’m crazy about bands that were cool 20 years ago, and I am uniquely and beautifully me.

Psalm 139:13 reminds me that God has created everything about my being; he has placed me in the beautiful family I belong to and he has fashioned a train of thought that is entirely my own. He has made me a small town girl, because he wanted me to know the blessings that it would provide me with.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14

But if I’m being honest, it’s not easy to to remember that, and it’s easy to pass off that verse as a “we’re all special” type of thing. The reality is that we’re living in a world that is constantly trying to tear us down; almost every media platform is trying to tell us we’re not good enough, and that we need to change something if not everything about ourselves. But, again, if I’m being honest, all that does is create clones.

God has specifically called us out to not conform to the world around us, and to transform our minds and trust his perfect plan for us. Trust that who you are is beautiful, a light shining in the darkness and that you are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-14)! When you wrap your mind around that, God can do wonderful things in you and through you.

” Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Let’s embrace ourselves, all of us! So what if you have interests that aren’t cool. So what if you aren’t like the people around you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. And not just your physical body, but the experiences you’ve had, the people who have molded you, your interests, your quirks and every other attribute that makes you, you. And most importantly, you are loved more deeply than you can even imagine.

Father God,

I’m struggling. I miss my home and the people who understand me. But God you are so good, and you have not left me alone in this city of 1.3 million. Help me to not only accept who I am, with all my quirks, but be thankful that you have molded me into the person I am. All of your works are wonderful and as you use this college experience to speak to me and continue to mold me, I know you are creating something beautiful. God I ask that you protect my heart from bitterness and anger as I experience people who don’t accept me for me. And Lord send me in the direction of people who would help me to embrace my passions and experiences. God thank you for speaking these things to my heart, and thank you for being a God that doesn’t just hover, but my savior who walks along side me. I love you Lord.

Amen.

Speak Now

8d19624f-7627-4335-99ef-cd947d7526c8.jpg

 

“I’m actually not shy at all” – me 90% of the time

This was my first week back in school, so lots of reunions with old friends and awkward encounters. Mostly awkward encounters actually; I was shocked at how many people I thought I was friends with last semester haven’t even acknowledged my existence. I tried to brush it off, blame it on the chaos that is the first week of school. Tried and failed, this really started to bother me deeply over the course of the week. I equated it to just not being memorable enough or too uninteresting. But then I realized that you have to actually have to speak in order to grow friendships. Go figure!

The fact is I’m not shy, but it’s impossible to tell, because I hardly say anything to anyone unless I’m poked or proodded. Over the last week I’ve tried to pinpoint the reason for my ever surrmounting silence and I’ve blamed it on past relationships and friendships in which I was never the person speaking and always the one listening, thinking maybe this  is just a habit I’ve developed?

I’ve found that it’s more of a mode of protection. If I don’t tell people how I really feel, they can’t know how much they’ve hurt me and I can’t be told that my thoughts and feelings are insignificant. I remember too many times in my life when I’ve opened up about my feelings or true opinions and had someone shut me down, because they have it worse, or they think I’m wrong or (my personal favorite) become defensive because they know I’m right. So I’ve stopped talking altogether. It’s easier that way.

But I’ve become too comfortable in silence, and too comfortable with suppressing my emotions. Silence isn’t my nature, that’s the crazy thing. I used to get in trouble for talking too much throughout elementary school! Before this silence, I spoke my opinion, unafraid and ready to defend my position.

As I began writing this post, unaware of where exactly I was going with this topic. God spoke to me and I realized that Jesus’s ministry would not of been possible if he hadn’t of spoke. Yes Jesus was quiet and prayerful at the appropriate times, but he also spoke up and spoke the truth even when he knew he would be opposed and rejected. Jesus wept, he expressed his anger in temple, he didn’t pretend everything was okay when it wasn’t. Jesus spoke although he was constantly being told to be quiet.

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” John 11:33-36

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[e] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’[f]” Matthew 21:12-13

Am I scared of rejection? absolutely. But Jesus, the one who told the roman governor that he had a kingdom not of this world (John 19), the one who looked those who opposed him in the eye and proclaimed the word of God; He lives in me.

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[f] And by him we cry, “Abba,[g] Father.”  Romans 8:15

So as I continue my sophomore year of college, I am going to speak. I am not going to live in fear of rejection or confrontation, because God has called me his daughter, strong and courageous because of He who lives in me.

God,

Thank you for reminding me that you have blessed me with a spirit of love, sound mindedness and power. You have not given me this spirit of fear that I am constantly battling. Thank you for revealing your truth to me. Lord you value and appreciate my thoughts, you value me. You have taken me in as your own and loved me beyond my comprehension. God help me to speak when needed, give me words to say that will glorify you. I love you Lord, may I find freedom and liberty in you.

Amen.

The Truth About Knowing Him More

3af5a017-d78b-4249-bb55-291b94311291.jpg

 

Today something interesting happened.

A friend and I decided to spend our morning at the cutest coffee shop on the planet; our plan was to sit, sip and rest.  We did indeed sit and sip, but God used the “rest” part to teach me a little something about his grace.

So there I was waiting for my iced vanilla latte, admiring my perfectly aesthetic surroundings, when a man approached me asking if I read the Bible and I answered with a simple “yea, I do!” hoping that would be the end of it. But that wasn’t the end of it (of course).  In a very polite way he proceeded to ask me if I had heard of several aspects and events that went into the authorship and writing of the Bible; I had no clue what he was talking about.

After several questions, he realized that I was not at all knowledgeable on the subject and left me to pick up my coffee.

As I walked away I felt hot, frantic and just dumb for not knowing any of the answers to his questions. I felt unworthy to carry a Bible in my arms, I felt like I had failed God.

However, determined to have a good day, I tried to brush the situation off and continue my “sit, sip and rest”. I opened my Bible up to the last place my bookmark was left and started to read. Just a few verses in, I read something that stuck out to me.

“Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor messenger greater than the one who sent him.” – Jesus John 13:16 

Jesus tells the Disciples this as he’s washing their feet, just before he is crucified. After reading this I realized that it is impossible for me to have an answer for every question. At this point in my reading, I didn’t quite get the message God was trying to reveal to me, so I kept reading.

In the following chapter Jesus promises that he will not leave us orphaned, but “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26) And that’s when it hit me. It is by God’s  grace and deep love for me that I know and have a relationship with him. It is not by my own wit or smarts that I know God and continue to know him, I know what I know, because the creator of the heavens and the earth has revealed it to me through his Holy Spirit. It is because God wants his daughter to know her heavenly Father.

I continued to read…

As I read the next chapter, I came across a verse that is very familiar to me, but after God revealed this truth to me, it came alive in a whole new way.

“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain un me.” – Jesus (John 15:3)

Apart from Christ, this relationship with God, the understanding I have, the deep love and joy I feel would not be possible. Because of Jesus’s blood, we can “draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings,” (Hebrews 10:19-22) Jesus broke the barrier between us and God, so that we can know our heavenly Father. I know him, because he first loved me. This blew my mind, and will forever change my relationship with the Lord.

None of this is to make an excuse for not having any answers for my friend at the coffee shop, but it showed me that without the Holy Spirit, there is no way for me to have any answers, and it is because of God’s deep love for me that I can know him more.

Abba Father,

Thank you for loving me first. Thank you for sending your son to die on that cross for my sins. Thank you for seeing me through his perfect blood. Lord it is by your grace that I can have a deep and personal relationship with you. Help me to remember that it is in no way by my merit that I know you more, but by your Holy Spirit which you have nestled in my heart. Lord thank you for your endless pursuit of me and your deep love for me, it is because of you that I know love. I love you.

Amen

Gifts

The themes of my last week have been fear, realization and renewal.

I recently moved back to college for my second year; while this is supposed to be an exciting time, I felt myself overwhelmed with the stresses of moving and entering into this new season of life. There were a few days before the move when I questioned even going back at all. Not because I had a bad freshman year, but because I was entering into uncharted territory with new people, new places and  new responsibilities.

Last year I applied for a leadership role that would put me in a mentor position to a group of about 20 freshman girls, and I got it! I even have the opportunity to lead with one of my bestfriends. But until recently, as in a day ago, I have felt extremely anxious for this new adventure. I’ve felt under qualified, not knowledgeable enough, just completely inadequate.

To let you in on why I’m feeling like this, it’s because I rarely, if ever, talk about or prompt conversations about God or my faith. Not because I’m ashamed, but because I’m terrified of saying the wrong thing or saying something that doesn’t bring Glory to God. Anytime something faith related comes up or I have to pray out loud, my heart practically thumps out of my chest and I immediately feel sick to my stomach. The crazy thing is that I have been given a gift for public speaking. If you tell me to give a speech about anything other than God in front of hundreds of people I could do it with ease and confidence.

That’s when I realized that this fear is coming from the enemy. Of course satan doesn’t want me to use my greatest strength to glorify God. My entire life I have known that God has called me to speak. But my mind has been too clouded by lies to realize that God gave me this gift so that I could speak about Him!

We each are blessed with a gift that can be used to glorify God, if you’re like me you might just think it’s something you’re good at,  but God wants to do so much more with our gifts. Our God literally blessed us with gifts of the Holy Spirit to testify to the salvation that can be found in christ.

” how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” Hebrews 2:3-5

The beauty of God’s church is that we all have such an array of personalities and gifts, yet they can all bring so much glory to our heavenly father!

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

So to you who doesn’t think you have a spiritual gift, look at whatever you’re strangely good at and ask yourself how you can use it to glorify God. A beautiful example of this is my lovely great grandma who recently turned 93. All of her life she has consistently been faithful to God, even through the death of her husband of 72 years. Her steadfast faith in God brings so much glory to him and it’s something she doesn’t even have a second thought about.

As I step into this new season of life, I’m realizing that the fear I’ve been feeling really has no place in my heart. Similarly, as I step into this new leadership position I want to lean into the gifts God has given me and glorify Him every chance I get. I want to be a living testimony to the beautiful salvation found in Jesus Christ.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Heavenly Father,

You have placed me where I am for a reason. I want to seek you and know you more. Lord help me to dispel all fears I have of speaking about you. I ask that you bless me with opportunities to speak about you and bring glory to you in those conversations. Remind me that you have not given me the spirit of fear, but one of power. God thank you for your faithfulness and your perfect will. I love you.

Amen

His Word

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

I constantly hear the claim that religion and Christianity are responsible for everything wrong with the world and unfortunately this is true in some cases.

However, too many people are holding God responsible for these issues when it’s actually man’s selfish actions. So, let’s get to the bottom of this.

Forty days after his resurrection and just before he was placed at the right hand of the Father, Jesus told the apostles:

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

 Acts 1:4

Ten days later at Pentecost, Jesus’s promise was kept and fulfilled. Pentecost, AKA, “the Festival of Weeks” was one of the major feasts of the year that took place after Passover and everyone and their mother was there. During this celebration, a wild wind came down from heaven and filled everyone in the place with the Holy Spirit and they all began to speak in tongues (Acts 2:1-12). All of the Galilean people were proclaiming the glory of God in the language of Parthians, Medes and Elamites; they were speaking to the Mesopotamians, the people of Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia. They were even speaking the languages of Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt and parts of Libya!

Many of the people who heard their native language being spoken were awestruck, and the others thought that the Galilean’s were drunk (Acts 2:12-13).  Peter tells them:

“These people are not drunk as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!” Acts 2:15

They weren’t drunk at all, they were filled and overflowing with the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Now this kind of blows my mind, God used these Christ followers to ensure that his glory would reach the ends of the earth. God spoke this promise through Joel way back when and was faithful as usual. This miracle began the early church, and from Pentecost on, it spread like wild fire.

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people… And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Acts 2:17, 21

The heart of the early church was Holy Spirit filled and Christ centered; Luke even tells us that on that day alone three thousand people were saved and baptized. That is evidence enough of God’s revitalizing and powerful Love.

So here is where we went wrong. Like a game of telephone, those three thousand passed the Good News to another few thousand and those few thousand passed it on to thousands more and so on and so on. But this is what we are called to do after all! Right?

And He said to them: go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15

We are called and divinely chosen to proclaim the Good News of our Lord and Savior, but as in a game of telephone, overtime that News becomes distorted and the message changes. God knew this would happen, as it is man’s nature to do things that are self-serving. Scripture after scripture warns against the distortion of God’s word:

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” Revelation 22:18-19

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:15

Despite God’s warnings, His word was altered in many ways and this is where we see the Holy War, the Crusades and the Dark Ages. The Dark ages are characterized by the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, lack of intellectual advancements and migration of practically everyone. The aspect of the Dark Ages that I would like to focus on is the intellectual darkness. At this time, very few people could read or write, but nearly everyone was deeply religious. As a result of this, interpretation of scripture was left to the people in power (religious leaders & royalty). I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this, power and money corrupted these leaders and as a result God’s word was misunderstood and is today blamed for many of the tragedies that took place during the Medieval period.

How did it get to that point? How could humanity of strayed so far from what God intended?

It’s shocking how simple the answer to that question is. People weren’t reading their Bibles. Much of it was due to a lack of normalized and mandated education, but God is faultless in all of this and again, he has the solution.

“For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.” Psalm 33:4

We are called to proclaim the full, complete, perfect Gospel; untainted and the Living Word of God to all of creation. And that means studying and reading his word, allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal what it is really saying, not what you or the world wants it to say. That pure act of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost is what led three thousand unbelievers to believe. Let’s get back to the heart of the early church.

God ensured that his word would be preserved for future generations and blessed us with his Holy Spirit, so that we would know him intimately and trust his perfect will.

“Bind up this testimony of warning and seal up God’s instruction among my disciples.” Isaiah 8:16

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Mark 13:31

It is vital for Christ followers to read God’s word, not only to know him more, but to be able to discern between man’s will and Gods will as well. God has poured out his Holy Spirit on us and made us temples of his Holy Spirit; this is what he intended his church to look like. Unified by Him and enthralled by the Holy Spirit. God paved the way for his grace and Love to reach the ends of the earth, now we need do our part is spreading the true and holy gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” Acts 5:42

Dear Lord,

Show me how I can know you more and follow your will for my life. I trust in your perfect, complete word and I pray that the fruit I bear will be evidence of that so that I can glorify you in all that I do. You have saved me and forgiven me and I love you Lord. I ask that my heart continues to be clear and open to hear what you are saying to me and how you want to work in my heart.

Amen

My Strong Tower

img_0695

“The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” Proverbs 18:10

This verse has been on my heart for about two weeks now; it caught my attention, because of the words “righteous” and “run”. When I think of running to the Lord, I have an image of being broken, tattered and in need of some serious healing. Then when I think of righteousness I either think of something I often confuse with pride or something I strive for but can’t achieve.  I don’t think I have ever equated righteousness with running to the Lord.

Despite what I’m inclined to think, Proverbs 18:10 clearly states that the righteous run to the fortified tower that is the name of the Lord. Scratch that, the righteous are in a dead sprint to the Lord. Once I read this scripture I realized that the righteous aren’t righteous because they’re perfect; they’re righteous, because they wholeheartedly and unapologetically seek the Lord. They are relentless in their pursuit and trust without limit.

“The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Proverbs 28:1

But here’s the catch. This emboldened pursuit is not a solo act. The only way we can begin to walk the path of righteousness is on the shoulders of God. Furthermore, there is a reason the righteous run to the Lord; they can’t do it alone and they accept that. While the righteous are as bold as a lion, it is through the Holy Spirit, God himself who has emboldened them.

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

Our sins have been reconciled so that we may live for that wild and passionate pursuit of God.

Living righteously looks a lot different than I would imagine. Recognition and pursuit are the markers of righteousness. Proverbs discusses the difference between knowledge and wisdom as it pertains to the word of the Lord. Knowledge being the recognition and wisdom is the pursuit. Knowledge is knowing something, while wisdom is knowing something and then acting on that knowledge. This makes perfect sense, this is what’s wrong with me and with the world. People know about love and compassion, they know about faith and trust, but they don’t do anything about it. This separates the righteous from the unrighteous.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” James 2:26

This verse is often used to guilt people into volunteering in a congregation or just to guilt trip people in general. However, James 2:26 is about saying “Jesus, I will” when the Lord puts something on your heart. While this could very well mean volunteering in a ministry, it could also mean taking off in a dead sprint to the fortified tower we call Lord, Jehovah and Yahweh.

My Prayer

Father God, my strong tower,

Thank you for your faithfulness and the fact that you have never and will never let me down. You move mountains that I don’t even see and you are forever looking to bless me. Father, remind me that to be righteous doesn’t mean independent and needless, but that it means running as fast as I can into your loving arms. I love you Lord.

Amen