Monday, March 28, 2011

Be an Example

A few years ago my younger sister used my cell-phone and made a phone call pretending to be me. At the time she was not a fan of talking on the phone, so instead of being her usual friendly self, she was awkward, slightly rude, and frantic to end the phone call. When I realized that she had done the whole thing in my name, I was completely frustrated because that person she was talking to, whoever it was,  probably thought badly of me and it wasn't even my fault.

Today for some reason I was recalling this memory and realized that this must be a bit how God feels when we as Christians act selfishly. For instance, God would get bummed if I put on my lovely cross necklace in the morning, a symbol of my faith in Christ, and then I headed over to Starbucks, ignored the homeless people out front and acted unfriendly to the barista. How frustrating for God, here He is loving people like crazy, and I walk in representing Him and treat my latte like its more important that the people around me. What a poor picture of Christ that would paint for the people who were present.

As Christians, people should be able to look upon our lives and see Jesus, that is the point, we are the "body of Christ". It is a heartbreaking thing when we as believers act selfishly, perhaps judging others, or gossiping, whatever it might be, and we turn people away from Jesus because they don't want to associate with a God that acts like that. It's amazing that though we live in a country with churches everywhere, many many people have never seen a good example of Christ being lived out in front of them. There is so much power in a truly faithful life, God uses it to draw people to Himself. God longs for people to know Him and one of the main ways He is going to get their attention is by using the Christians.

So it is our job as believers is to be Godly examples to others, and in humility show them what life with Christ is really about. God's love is to be shown in our life, our love, our faith, our speech, and our purity. Jesus should be evident in our clothing and in our conversations, in our music and in our hobbies, in our marriages and our workplaces; and without even saying His name it should be obvious that we are His. The way a wedding ring marks a spouse, our behavior marks our lives. This doesn't mean we won't have off days. I am often weak and struggle with all kinds of things. But God is glorified when we are quick to recognize when we have blown it, and humbly seek to make things right.

Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 1 Timothy 4:12

How have you seen Christ lived out today in someone you know? Feel free to share your stories here and encourage others with some amazing Godly ideas of how to share Christ's love in our daily lives.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What do YOU want to be remembered for?

If you left today, if you moved away, or passed away, how would we remember you? How would your family, your friends, your co-workers, the people nearest to you, how would they remember your life?

Its a strange question and it requires some deep thought, but if we take the time to reflect on this I think that it has the ability to inspire great change. Life can be so overwhelming with its many stresses and deadlines. We are constantly bombarded with struggles and difficulties it is easy to be overtaken and simply let life happen to us. Instead of taking charge and living with purpose, we just react to the things that happen, striving to do the best we can. Usually we end up regretting some of our irrational decisions because we lacked the strength and patience to act with integrity.

So how would we benefit from thinking about the way people would remember us? The benefit comes when we realize that we actually want people to be able to look upon our lives and derive hope, encouragement, and inspiration that would benefit their own lives. Then we can create a vision for our lives that can shape us and navigate us through difficult times.

Example? Okay so I have a vision to be a woman of patience and grace. Well thats a sweet idea, but what about when I am working with someone who is stubborn, selfish, and outwardly rude? If I were simply reacting to my circumstances I would be likely to shut down, rebel, outwit the person to cut them with my words, or do whatever I can do discredit their reputation. But with the vision I have to be patient and gracious, inspired by the Holy Spirit, I can extend love to this difficult person. Despite my own feelings and all of the emotional turmoil, I maintain my vision to be remembered as a woman of God and I pray for my coworker. I treat them to gifts. I speak highly of them in the presence of others. I seek to understand them and assume the best of them. Why? Because my commitment to my vision of Godliness means more than my emotions.

So what is your vision? What is your life about? Are you living the life you want to live? Do you have direction or are you simply reacting? I pray God blesses you as you ponder this stuff. I believe in you.

1 John 2:15-17 (New Living Translation)

Do Not Love This World
 15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Recent Revelation [notes from class with Dean Sherman]

One day we will all be free from this stuff. Cancer, sickness, abuse, poverty, hunger, longing to be satisfied... it will all be gone! Jesus will come for us and all that has been will end and there will be a brand new beginning. Our sins, our shame, the constant battle against temptation, all of it will cease forever. That is great news. Amazing news. The best news ever! 

That must be why God is so set on us going out and preaching the good news! ahhh I love this. 

Here are some notes from what we are learning this week in class with Dean Sherman. I have been ridiculously encouraged by this stuff I thought perhaps someone else could benefit too.

-a choice to serve from a motivation of love
-a flow of the Holy Spirit through you, released by faith and obedience to meet the needs of people
Simply being a YWAM leader or a church leader does not mean someone is doing ministry. 

There are lots of things happening in the Christian world that are not done through a motivation of love. I'm completely guilty of doing that myself. There are also lots of "ministries" around that are not meeting any needs, I am guilty of that too. I'm excited to change that. There are lots of people meeting needs around the world, but that doesn't make it ministry. There needs to be a God factor.

"It is not ministry if the Holy Spirit is not present, it is Christian education at best."
"Information alone brings death, the Spirit brings life."

We are part of the body of Christ and we have each been given a gift to glorify God. We need each other in the body, or we won't survive. The "gifts" we have are not actually gifts at all until they are shared with someone. I may have the "gift of dance" but until I'm using dance to help someone else dance is simply one of my possessions.

Until a gift is given, it is only a possession. We all have gifts. Stop trying to be someone else!! 

We resent serving unless we do it with the strength God provides. We should not be serving for any motive other than the love and strength of God. 

Isaiah 40:
30 Even youths grow tired and weary, 
   and young men stumble and fall; 
31 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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

lyrics from "Times" by Tenth Avenue North

....i hear you say
"my love is over,
its underneath, its inside, its in between
the times you doubt me, when you can't feel
the times that you've questioned 'is this for real?'
the times you've broken, the times that you mend
the times you hate me and the times that you bend
well my love is over, its underneath
its inside, its in between,

these times you're healing
and when your heart breaks
the times that you feel like you've fallen from grace
the times you're hurting
the times that you heal
the times you go hungry and are tempted to steal
in times of confusion and chaos and pain
im there in your sorrow under the weight of your shame
im there through your heartache
im there in the storm
my love i will keep you by my power alone
i dont care where you've fallen, where you have been
i'll never forsake you
my love never ends, it never ends"

artist: Tenth Avenue North, song: Times

tornadoes, God, & staying fulfilled.

"The only people in Oklahoma who are actually afraid of tornadoes are the ones who just moved there. Everyone who lives there already is so used to them, they don't even bother to worry." [a quote from a sweet friend of mine]
That is crazy to me. A tornado, a humungous whirlwind of destruction, and yet somehow we can just get used to it. Like its no big deal. 
That happens with other things too though... I have been evacuated a couple of times at 4am because of forest fires that came near to our house, and now where the thought of a fire kind of excites me, but I am not phased like I was before. People who live in Colorado Springs aren't stricken with awe when they see Pikes Peak, natives of Hawaii are less likely to recognize the splendor of a beach sunset, and those that have grown up with snow will likely overlook the current downfall because they have seen it all before.
I have been noticing recently that as people, we have a strange ability to get used to things that are amazing, wonderful, & awesome.. even things that we have dreamed of for years and years become mundane if we let them. 
I hate it. It can happen in the greatest of relationships. Marriages dissolves because of this, adultery looks appealing, jobs are quit, drugs are introduced, drinking becomes habit, addictions overtake us, and pretty soon we become slaves to meaningless things because we just want to feel some sort of pleasure that will keep us going. 
The Samaritan woman that Jesus met at the well in John 4 understands this feeling. In verse 18 Jesus says, "..The fact is, you have had 5 husbands, and the man you have now is not your husband.." I relate to her so much, in her seeking of fulfillment from guys. Without the grace of God and the help from people who love me, I could easily be someone who gives myself over to lust. (But praise God, I am a faithful wife and I adore my husband! Hooray!!) This woman was fulfilled in her marriage for awhile, something happened.. perhaps just time happened, and as those feelings of excitement grew dim she looked to someone else to satisfy her need to feel "filled". She thirsts, as we all do, to feel satisfied. Jesus in His perfect mercy comes to her, He meets her in the middle of her daily chores and invites her to satisfaction in verse 14, "But whoever drinks the water I give [her] will never thirst. Indeed the water I give [her] will become in [her] a spring of water welling up to eternal life." 
Only God can offer satisfaction that will keep us filled. 
But as I grow in the Lord, and continue my walk with Him, I relate to my friend from Oklahoma at the beginning of this blog who isn't phased by a tornado... even though God is huge, majestic, and powerful, I am capable of living without being phased by His presence, simply because I feel like He is so familiar. 
That can happen with my sweet husband too. Actually I will give you an illustration of how it works. So last week we were taking an afternoon nap together and I was resting in his arms. (this doesn't happen often so we enjoyed it very much) But we were there for so long that I couldn't feel his hand in mine anymore because I had basically gone numb. In order to see if Shaun's hand was still there I pulled away from him, then immediately he woke up a bit and grabbed my hand back in his. Then I felt it again and the numbness went away.
In that moment I understood life a little more- because if I had not made an effort to feel Shaun's touch on my hand, I could have allowed my mind to wander to a place of literally desiring someone's touch, yet the whole time I would be ignoring the wonderful touch from the best man I could have ever asked for. It's absurd and yet it is reality. 
There will be times in our relationship with God when we will have been resting in His perfect love for so long we may actually "go numb". We stop "feeling it" and start treating His presence as normal, so then we stop being satisfied and may consider seeking fulfillment elsewhere. Is there any way to avoid this? Ah I wish there was, but at least based on my own personal experience, this is not the case. However we can learn how to live so that it doesn't get the best of us. We can be equipped in such a way that no matter how long we have been doing something, or have been in a relationship, or have lived somewhere, or experienced something... we won’t sacrifice our character for a "feeling" of satisfaction.
That will look different for all of us but I think we would be wise to look for ways to keep things new and fresh and wonderful. We "go numb" when we get into a pattern of something and aren't intentional about keeping the love alive. 
It is important to note that the feeling of love is NOT love. It is wonderful but it is not love. Love is deeper than a feeling. If a relationship is only built on a feeling of love then there is a little chance that the relationship will last. Our emotions are often unreliable and if they are given too much weight they can easily lead us into sin. 
God is enormous and eternal. No matter what we have seen of Him, or experienced of Him, it is only a teeny tiny sliver of what there is of Him. That is so encouraging. There is always more of God for us. How do we receive more? We seek more. Just as we do when we are trying to maintain a passionate marriage or a deep friendship- we spend time together, we talk, we learn about each other, we listen, we serve, we treat each other as better than ourselves, and we pursue each other’s company. In sustaining intimacy with God it is vital to be praying and spending time reading the Bible, we can’t expect relationship with Jesus without putting in the time to understand His heart. 
Christianity was never supposed to be about Sunday mornings. Being a lover of Christ is a life commitment, it consumes us, and the residue of it is to be seen in every part of our lives. Even when we feel weak, dry, numb, or like we just don’t have the strength to continue on, He will be there to carry us if we just surrender to His faithful love. It is not primarily a faith, it is a life. A beautifully satisfying life. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Men and God. Some truth about both.

He's an attractive and cocky high school kid, he secretly watches porn on his laptop each night, and hopes to get a college scholarship for football. His fear and insecurity are masked behind his arrogance.

He is good looking, strong, works out daily, more funny than most, and the most disciplined, hardest working man around. He was sexually abused when he was young and, rightly so, he still struggles with feeling like a man. No one knows the pain he feels, his humor and impossible work ethic serve as the perfect cover. 

He was in love with her. He hoped she was the one, but she wasn't. Their last encounter was miserable, her words cut him to the core. Underneath his smile he is aching from the lack of closure, and yet he fears speaking with her because he doesn't want to let his anger get out of control. 

He loves some good weed, vodka is his drink of choice, and he tries to steer clear of tequila because it makes him rage. At parties he is usually the most fun, hilarious, crazy, and seems not to care that he makes a fool of himself most nights. His mom is gone, his dad is disconnected, and if he ever had the courage not to numb it all, the pain might just kill him. Its too much. 

My heart has been broken for guys. Young. Old. Christian. Non. 

Just a few years ago I had allowed them to be my "God". Whether they wanted me, or rejected me, that was how I determined my value. I'd be lying if I said I don't still struggle with that from time to time. Actually I have always feared guys a bit. I thought they must not want to hear what I have to say, because girls are too much for them. We talk too much and feel too much and need too much. I also thought that the only way to relate was to flirt, and offer myself in some sexual fashion. I couldn't understand that they actually have feelings too. I had seen glimpses of their true hearts, but then it seemed that I was always being hurt, or rejected, or something stupid. It was probably because I was looking to them to get something they couldn't give me, and maybe they were looking to me for the same. 

Through some deep friendships with some incredible men recently my whole perspective has been rocked. I hope that I have the grace to communicate what I've learned and I hope that God uses it to help you. It has changed me. 

There is so much pressure on them. To provide, to be strong, to get through, to "not be a dumbass" (a quote from a friend's dad). Like us girls, they have their own array of hurts and insecurities. They hope to be wanted and accepted. They hope to be enough for us. If they appear proud it is usually due to some deeply rooted fear. One of my friends who apologized for this pride earlier last week admitted that when he was young he was taunted for being "fat" so as a cover he worked out and acted conceited so no one could get close to him. 

They are visual, God made them that way, so pornography, low cut tops, short skirts, and skimpy bikinis can cause even the most Godly of men to stumble. They were created to be comforted and encouraged by sex, but God's design is that it happens within their marriage. But with sex everywhere it is difficult for them to navigate through life without falling prey to watching pornography. The best way to overcome is for them to be accountable to other people, to have a group of men that they talk to and keep each other on track with purity. We can help them too.. by dressing in a way that honors them and us. We don't have to wear a denim dress and turtleneck, but we can steer clear of skimpy, sheer, tight, and revealing clothes. 

Work can be a release for them. Thats good, but it is not supposed to be their whole life. If they are working too much it is possible that they are trying to not to face a hurt that they have inside. Pray for them. Encourage rest. 

They need us, like we need them. They need us to not view them as gods, and they need us not to view them as enemies. They are neither. They are valuable and precious and their lives matter. If we only ever see them as "options" or a potential date, we will miss out on them all together.  In fact I think that is actually our own selfishness, wanting to claim something good as our own, rather than praising God for another awesome creation. 

Men.. you are amazing. AMAZING. You work so hard. You have been hurt so badly. You've been taken advantage of, forgotten, rejected. You have lost someone you loved. You have struggled with things that you fear, if anyone knew, they would never want to see you again. You are not your job. You are not your car, your clothes, your sport. You are not your money. You're value doesn't change if you get more women. You are not your size. You are exactly enough. You are better than the way you are living. You are not alone. You are a great listener and have way more to offer than you know. You can stay pure. You can stop drinking. You can rest. Smoking will not fix it. No amount of stuff will numb the emptiness you feel. A bigger truck or a newer car will not take this away. Only the love of a perfect God can make you whole. I'm sorry for ever taking you for granted. For treating you like a god, or for treating you like an enemy. That was not fair of me, or any of us girls. No matter where you are at or what you have done you have Creator that is ready to free you and make something amazing of your life. You can trust Him. He is amazing. You are amazing. Know that today. 

Psalm 144:1-3, 15
1 Praise be to the LORD my Rock,
   who trains my hands for war,
   my fingers for battle.
2 He is my loving God and my fortress,
   my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
   who subdues peoples under me.
 3 LORD, what are men that you care for them,
   mere mortals that you think of them?
15 Blessed is the people of whom this is true;
   blessed is the people whose God is the LORD.