Saturday, August 30, 2014

When Your Own Words Come Back to Bless You...

  I struggle with being a perfectionist and because of that I've always been really hard on myself.  It seems no matter how good I do something, I can always think of ways I should of done it better.  No matter how hard I try, I feel like I could have given more.  And even when other people tell me I've done a good job, I have a really hard time believing it.  Sadly, I am never quite good enough for myself....and what's even worse is that sometimes that feeling seeps into my heart and I start wondering if I'm also not good enough for God. 
  The past week I have been wrestling a lot with this.  It's hard because I can envision the person I want to be, but then I see the person I am and I am disappointed in myself.  This can quickly turn into the downward spiral of me thinking that maybe I am also disappointing God, and then before I know it I am once again wrapped up in the lie that God loves me based on what I do instead of Who I am to Him.
  Ironically, this week it was also my turn to prepare and lead our youth group on a study about the new identity we receive in Christ.  I must have repeated in my own sermon a hundred times that we are completely, unconditionally loved by God and that love is based not on us, but on a God who created us and then gave His son so that we could forever be united with Him. 
  I sat there and told these teens that God will never turn His back on us and that there is nothing we can ever do to make God love us anymore or any less.  Then I begged them to let those truths seep the eight inches from their heads to their hearts so that they wouldn't just have the knowledge in their mind of a loving God somewhere out there, but that He would live in their heart and they would know Him intimately.
  As we closed our meeting, I asked my teammate to play one last song and pray over the group so they we all could just focus on God and Christ would have a moment to work in each of our hearts.  I was expecting God to move upon the youth, to breathe on them, to confirm to them the truth of the words I had shared.  Instead (or hopefully along with that) He chose to breathe on me.  In that moment every ounce of studying I did and all the scriptures I had read to write my sermon, came flooding back to me and it was like God said, "This is for you too...because no matter what you say, no matter what you do, no matter how much you try to be perfect and fail...I LOVE YOU"!  And those were the exact words I needed to hear in that moment!
  It's always amazing to me how as humans it takes hours, days, and some times even weeks to pray and prepare a message for God's people, but that God can preach a sermon, change a heart and rebuild a life in the blink of an eye!  He knows what to say, how to say it and perfectly when to do it.  He's our good Shepard!...And yet sometimes He uses your own sermon to speak to your heart!  Thanks God!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why I'll be Praying for Mark Driscoll...

  I don't normally like to get involved with spiritual mud fights that happen in the Christian community.  I think it makes us all as Christians look bad and only confirms the belief of the world that we are judgmental and hypocritical.  So normally I keep my mouth shut and don't say anything at all when it comes to our "family drama".  That's not to say I don't have opinions though. 
  In fact I was reading a blog today about everything that's going on surrounding Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church and I honestly felt myself getting more and more annoyed as I read.  This blog post was about how we should all be praying for and showing grace to Mark and his family since we all, like him, have sinned.  I actually agree with what was written.  We should be praying for him and instead of casting him out of the Christian community like some form of garbage, we really do need to be showing love.  However, I was annoyed because I actually really respect the person who wrote this blog and yet I couldn't help but feel like in his effort to share the truth of what it means to live and love like Christ, he was also saying that it was okay for Mr Driscoll to treat people as he as and to have done the things he has done.
  Now in all honesty, I don't really know all that much about what Mark Driscoll is accused of.  Like I said I usually try to steer clear of Christian on Christian bashing, but I also have a hard time pushing aside what I do know, as if it does not matter.  Do I think we need to love each other...YES, of course.  Do I think he should be shunned for his actions....NO, not at all.  But isn't there still consequences when it comes to sin?  Yes Jesus paid for our sin on the cross.  Yes I believe in His grace and mercy and that we not only need to receive it, but also give it to those all around us.  But I can't seem to bring myself to believe that means we should act as if no wrong as been done.  That's like saying a murderer can evade jail because he's said he's sorry.  It just doesn't seem right to me.
  So here I was reading this blog and actually having a mental argument with it's writer for trying to defend a brother in Christ, not for what he's done but because of who he is, and it dawned on me....isn't this how Jesus treats me.  When God looks at me, he sees His child and he loves me unconditionally, not because of the things I have done, but because of who I am.  Yes I sin and make a mess of things all the time, but God doesn't give up on me.  And yes there are consequences to my sin, but that doesn't mean I stand condemned.  When I repent and turn from my evil ways God looks at me and sees only the righteousness of His son; it's as if I've done no wrong.  In fact He looks at all His children this way.
  So instead of being judgemental and getting annoyed, I realize that I need to listen to this bloggers advice.  I don't know Mark Driscoll personally...I've never met him and I've only read one of his books about half way through...but I will be praying for him and for his family. And I hope that despite any wrong he might have done, that the grace and forgiveness of God will flood through the body of Christ and this whole situation will bring him and others only closer to god!  What the enemy means for evil, let God use for good.  Amen!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Unless the Lord Builds the House...

"I lift my eyes towards the heavens.  I tune my ears to your commands.
Help me boast in my condition.  You're the God and I'm the man." 
  I've been living on the "field" for the past seven months, but I only recently moved from the city to a smaller village up in the mountains.  Since moving it's become more and more clear to me just how much we can't do anything outside of the power of God and that it's only in coming to know Him more that our lives will have any impact on the world around us.  In fact, the truth of the matter is...it's all His work, we can do nothing.
  I moved to this country with great ideas about saving the world.  I had envisioned things going much differently than they have and I think a part of me truly believed that I could change hearts and minds for the gospel.  Since being in this village though, I have realized more and more that it's not me who does the work at all.  Only God can do that...if I allow Him to work through me.
  One of my teammates likes to quote the verse "Unless the Lord builds the house the builders build in vain" (Psalm 127:1).  It's a constant reminder to himself and our team that anything we do in our own strength, through our own abilities, with our own agenda, will not last.  We could pour out every last drop of ourselves into this community, but if it's not of God....if we are not listening to his voice and allowing his spirit to work through us...then none of it will matter in the end.
  That's a hard to truth to swallow....but it's truth none the less.  My human nature tells me to work hard and preform and give 110% because only then will things really be accomplished.  But Jesus himself said that the only work God wants from us is to believe in the one who has sent Him (John 6:29).  I don't believe Jesus was saying we shouldn't minister and be involved in outreach (if I did  then I might as well pack up my bags and go home).  But I do think that Jesus is pointing to a greater truth and that is that it's only in Him...in knowing Him...that we can ever truly make Him known.  Jesus has to flow in us and then He will flow out of us.  It's the only way. 
  The world doesn't need more of me...the world needs more of Him.  So instead of trying to force my own way and do things as I see fit...I think I'll just take my time to sit at the feet of Jesus and see what he has to say.  My glorious unfolding is His story to tell....I just get to live it out!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Letting Go of Normal...

  Living a life on mission has it's perks.  I mean, what other job involves spending your days hanging out with people and investing in their lives.  I get to spend moment after moment in conversation over coffee and tea.  I get invited over to peoples houses for lunch and dinner.  I am even offered free food and gifts of thanksgiving from friends and neighbors.  It's actually pretty amazing.
  But there's also the downside to this life....things that don't make it so easy.  There's a responsibility that comes with it that forces you to carry other peoples burdens and walk in their pain.  There's a daily moment (and usually more than just one) when you have to die to yourself and your own comfort in order to swim in the messy ocean of humanity.  And there's the constant realization that people are watching your every move and judging you by every word you preach. Sometimes it just seems easier to go back to normal.
  The thing is....I'm not sure I'll ever really be able to go back to normal.  I was trying to explain this to some friends the other day, because the Big question already being asked is what will I do when my "commitment" is up...as if this life I am living really has a deadline (sure the agency does but if I'm here for them I've truly missed the point).  I think normal might be ruined for me though and I'm not sure that I'll ever feel comfortable going back to it.
  When I was younger I wrote a letter to my future self and in it I said something like when I grow up I want to go to a top college, have a brilliant carrer, get married, have kids and settle down.  There's nothing wrong with any of that...in fact I still want some of those things.  But that life, which is pretty normal, just doesn't seem fulfilling to me anymore.  In that life I am living for my own comfort and joy..and while that's good for me, what about everyone else?!  If my life is only about me then really what's the point?! (to be honest I could be quite content with a bag of chips, a sofa and Netflix everyday....but is that really living?!?).  God promises us "Abundant Life" and that's not found in any of those things listed above!
  I'm not doing a very good job of explaining this...I didn't do a very good job the other day either....but I feel like in a sense I've been unhooked from the Matrix and I've realized that there's got to be more to this life.  I don't have it all figured out yet.  It seems I only get glimpses here and there as I walk out this journey....but I can see there's something more....God's got better for me and for all of us.  We...I....just have to let go of normal and  I think I am ready to do just that!.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Does Real Love Have a Line...?!?!

  My pastor once sent me a quote by Timothy Keller that I ended up saving to my phone for over a year.  The quote went something like this...
"all life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice.
 If you love a person whose life is all put together and has no major needs,
it costs you nothing...But if you ever try to love somebody who has needs,
someone who is in trouble or who is persecuted or emotionally wounded,
it’s going to cost you. You can’t love them without taking a hit yourself.
A transfer of some kind is required, so that somehow their troubles,
 their problems, transfer to you."
  I was reminded of this quote tonight after a conversation I had with one of my friends on Skype today.   She was telling me about a situation
she is struggling with involving one of her other friends and she asked out loud where a person is suppose to drawl the line between loving
others  and standing up for yourself  against their abuse.  I didn't really have any answers for her...as I myself get it wrong more times than I 
get it right....but I heard myself tell her that maybe there is no line.  I mean obviously you need to use wisdom, but maybe it's less about a line
and more about how to be most loving.  When you think about it that's how Jesus treated us when he went to the cross.  He did the most loving
thing on earth by "taking the hit himself" in order to pay for our abuses.  There was no line for Him....He went all the way for us!  And if He's
our example then maybe we are suppose to do the same for others.
  Now believe me I know it's not all that simple....I think about women being abused by their spouses or friends and families dealing with the
actions of addicts....and I know it's not all that black and white (nothing in life ever is).  But I can't help but wonder if we spent more time
asking ourselves what it looks like  to really LOVE one another, would we really even worry about a line any more?!  A line suggests some
kind of defense mechanism,a way to protect ourselves.  But maybe real love is walking in the humility that places others above ourselves and
says I won't give up, even when it hurts, because it's not all about me.  And maybe real LOVE is wrapped up in denying ourselves and taking up our
cross daily, since it was in fact on the cross that the greatest act of loved was ever shown!



Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Glorious UnFolding...

  On of my favorite singers/song-writers is Steven Curtis Chapman and he recently came out with a new album called "The Glorious Unfolding".  The Title Song from this Album says...

Lay your head down tonight
Take a rest from the fight
Don’t try to figure it out
Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart
‘Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

God’s plan from the start
For this world and your heart
Has been to show His glory and His grace
Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of
His unfailing Love
And the story has only begun
...For so much of my life I have run from my "calling" (or whatever you want to call it).  I've wanted to fit in and belong and in every sense of the word be normal.  But NOW...now I believe and now I know life was meant to be anything but normal.  Life is a Glorious Unfolding Adventure that seldom goes according to plan and rarely look like what we expected...and yet it's all a gift from God!  And like the song says..."There's so much of the story that's still yet to unfold" because "The story has only begun"!  Here is where I'll share my take on my own unfolding story.