Wednesday, March 28, 2012

3 Steps

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." - John 10:27-28

1. Hear my voice
2. Follow me
3. Live Eternally

As I read these verses, I become overwhelmingly bothered by our society's acceptance of the "lukewarm Christian life." It is as though #2 on the list above is skipped over. Today's culture rests on the philosophy of "live it up!" and don't get me wrong, I am all about not wasting your life. But there is a disconnect. It seems as though we see following Jesus as boring, or maybe missing out on the opportunity to live life to the fullest. That is ridiculous. My concern is that us Christians are not doing one of two things: One- being the example, the salt and light, experiencing the abundant life openly for the world to see. Two- that we are settling ourselves or watching our Christian brothers and sisters settle for the mundane, lukewarm life of a little bit of Jesus and a little bit of the world (sin).
Jesus said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." - John 10:10. The ways of the Lord are set for our protection and well being. As our Father, he desires to protect and love us well. So the "rules" that so many see as boring and limiting, are not rules, but boundaries that our loving Father has put into place in order to provide us with the best possible life here on this earth, while we await a perfect life in Heaven.

Are you committed to following Jesus, regardless of the cost? Are you ALL IN?
Don't waste your life.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bridge the Gap

Over the last couple weeks, I have come to a place of developing a love for snail mail. I am basically hooked on mailing things to friends and family... anything from birthday cards to "just thinking about you" notes! There is just something extra special about getting something other than coupons or bills in the mail. This means that stamps are now something I [try to] keep on hand at all times. But besides birthday cards and just for fun notes, God has led me to send out a few other things in the mail to bridge the gap....

This last week I sent out two hand written letters, asking for forgiveness from people whom I have lost contact with -- one, was my dad and the other, a former roommate. I recently read in Matthew 5:24, "First be reconciled to your brother..." and in Matthew 6:14 "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." As I searched my heart, I realized that there were things I needed to seek their forgiveness in. This was not easy for me. Why? Because I am a sinner. A prideful, selfish, sinner. And for a long time I have focused on the wrong they have done to me and looked very little on the wrong I have done to them. In MY perfect world, I would be perfect and would be the forgiver, not the one in need of forgiveness. However, the world you and I live in is fallen, imperfect, and broken. As these letters reach both my dad and former roommate, I am praying that God will move in their hearts to forgive me and respond so that our relationships can be restored! But, if I never hear back from them, I know that I can stand before the Lord, confident that I did as He asked me to.

Is there anyone in your life that you need to seek forgiveness from or forgive? Do you need to take the initiative to bridge the gap that has grown between you and someone who has wronged you?

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." -- Matthew 5:44

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fast Forward

On occasion, I find myself daydreaming about what my tomorrows will look like.... sometimes I fast forward my life and think about how my family will grow-- will Tyler and I have children? how many children will we have? will we be able to have children of our own? will we adopt? Other times I catch myself fantasizing about where I will live in the future-- will my house be a home? what flooring will we have? how many rooms will there be? what paint colors will we choose? And, quickly, I am brought back to the reality that it is today.

"This is the day is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24). Don't get me wrong, I don't think God wants me to think only about "today" -- after all, he created me and I am a planner! But, getting caught up in a future that is already planned out for me, as if I have some sort of control over it, is simply a waste of my thought time. Sure, I have desires, but daydreaming about them won't get me anywhere-- and after all, God knows the deepest desires of my heart! He knows that I'd love twins, a home with a front porch, and a luscious yard! But, the todays leading up to my tomorrows are purposeful. "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12). I'm trusting God that if I set my mind on things above and allow my todays to prepare my heart for my tomorrows, that not only will he bless me, but that I will find satisfaction in each day! After all, I wouldn't want to miss the treasure that God has for me in my today....

"...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, what is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." -- Philippians 4:8

Monday, March 19, 2012

Surrender All

I woke up this morning with "surrender" heavy on my heart. God was poking at my heart to surrender, to truly trust him with some things that I am constantly battling to keep in my possession. I picture myself standing before the throne of God... "...present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." - Romans 12:1. He asks me to lay down before him and empty my hands. So, what is it that I am holding on to? Well, a variety of things. Some days I want to hold on to money or possessions, other days I want to hold on to relationships. But why?

Just as Joshua says to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the Manasseh tribe, we are also commanded... "Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law of Moses that the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul." - Joshua 22:5When I read this, several things jump out. But keeping with the topic of surrender here, serve him with all your heart and with all your soul hits the bullseye. The keyword that sticks out is all. How can we serve God with all of our heart and soul if part of our heart and soul is commited to serving something else? We are only fooling ourselves if we think this is possible.

Holding on to money, possessions, status, or relationships is keeping the heart divided. "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." - Matthew 6:24. Our hearts are drawn to things that pull us away from clinging to him every day! What are you holding on to that is hard to let go? Do you trust God with it?

We are left with a choice. Will we choose to embrace our brokenness and surrender or will we continue to fight with God to keep our hands full of things other than Him?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Wise Counsel

Too often, we make hasty decisions without consulting anyone. Think back on the last three major decisions you made.... Did you ask anyone for their wisdom, counsel, or prayer? Who did you ask? What was the outcome? Would the outcome be any different if you had sought out wise counsel, or counsel from someone different?

"Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance..." - Proverbs 20:18
As Christians, we are instructed to seek out wise counsel! This often occurs out of a humble heart and a desire to earnestly seek God's will. Does this mean we allow others to make our decisions for us? Absolutely not! But as we are seeking God through His Word and prayer, we should also be talking to our mentors and fellow Christians about their thoughts. I know for me, talking through things with my mentors and other Christians is helpful because I am a verbal processor.... so even just talking out loud helps! And I find that when I think God is directing me in one way, and it is confirmed by several people, it is easier to rest in that and move forward as God is leading.

"Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety." - Proverbs 11:14
" abundance of counselors there is victory." - Proverbs 24:6
An abundance... could sound overwhelming! However, this is important in order to avoid misleading. If what multiple, safe people are saying all line up... and more importantly, line up with what God's Word says, then you can be more certain of the counsel. If you currently only seek out wise counsel from one source, I would encourage you to check your heart and the healthiness of that relationship. Appropriate boundaries should be set in place to avoid codependency. I once heard Marian Jordan say, "If you fear someone other than the Lord, they have too high of a priority in your life." And Francis Chan once challenged a crowd I sat in with these questions, "Are you saying things your mentor told you to say? Or are you saying/doing things that are from your time with God?" Basically, listen to God first but seek out wise counsel from several healthy sources and apply the wisdom as it lines up with what God says.

"He who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me." - Psalm 101:6
I remember when I first read this verse. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Early in my walk with God, I would take everything and anyone any Christian said as "Truth." Even now, I am still learning the differences that Christians have views and beliefs on and sorting that out as I grow in the Lord. However, this verse is very important. When we seek out wise counsel, it should not be advice from a whole bunch of people who are not walking with God. Wise counsel should come from people who are walking closely with God, are seeking to do His will for their own lives, and want God's best for you! It is those people who should minister to you. Counsel from people who are not walking alongside God, is mere advice.

I hope this encourages you to seek out wise counsel, in conjunction with your own seeking God through His Word and prayer, the next time you make a [major] decision!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Once Fatherless

Ok, some quick family background:
I have a younger brother, James, who is about 3 years younger than me. Our parents were divorced in 1996. James and I have a tight bond because we were each other's only "constant." We would go back and forth from our mom's house to our dad's, but we were always together! Our parent's divorce affected us differently and we tend to handle our emotions very differently. Here's some more of my story....

April 2003, my life changed forever.
My daddy and I had always butt heads, for as far back as I can remember. But during the spring semester of my freshman year in high school, he decided to release court ruling for my visitations with him. It was hard for me to be "happy" with that, as I had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression earlier that school year. But it was a relief to feel as though I was gaining back control of my life. During my middle school and into my freshman year of high school, I got in a lot of trouble with my dad; I was constantly being grounded, punished, and having privileges revoked. Now, some may say I was rebellious, and that could be true, but deep down, I think what I was crying out for was love. I felt controlled and manipulated, not loved. As wise of a decision it may have been at the time for me and my family, for my dad to wave custody rights, it hurt. What I think I felt was, "you are not worth fighting for." Look at every fairytale.... girls want to have someone fight for them! And as a young teenager, I needed that man to be my daddy. [From here, there is obviously a lot more to the story, however, specific details are not important in this particular telling.]
It wasn't until February 2011 that my daddy and I saw each other, for the first time, in almost 8 years. He invited me to a college basketball game. My husband, Tyler, and I decided to go! I was nervous, excited, and relieved!!! After all, MY DADDY WANTED ME AGAIN!!! Our time at the game was great, I got to share about what all had happened in my life... I graduated from high school (minor miracle since at one point I was failing most of my classes), graduated from college, and had gotten married! And it was wonderful just to hear his voice and to see his face. A couple weeks after that game I received a message from my daddy that brought me to tears. What he said is not what I want to highlight (I do not think poorly of my daddy and do not want to leave you thinking poorly of him either!), but what I heard and felt. As I received his message, I felt unlovable and unworthy of love. For the past year, we have not gotten together or really been in touch. If I had it my way, that would not be the case. I miss my daddy, as any girl would!
But I want to go back to my feelings of being unlovable and unworthy of love....because thus far this story brings a lot of bad news and there is Good News! During my high school years, I met someone who taught me what love really is, and proved that I was indeed loved very deeply. He is my Heavenly Father. When my earthly father left me feeling abandoned and unloved, my Heavenly Father intervened to say, "I chose you" (John 15:16) and  "I love you" (John 15:12). This brought me such hope! God was not asking me to keep rules in order to be loved or approved- He loves me, period! But years after finding this True Love, I have to constantly battle the temptation to gain love and approval of others. The only One whose love I need is the Lord's.

I am so grateful that God met me right where I was, and used such a horrific experience (for any young girl) to woo me and show me true love. As for my daddy, I continue to hope and pray for a reconciled relationship someday as well as that he would find True Love as I have! And I also believe that God can use your sometimes unfortunate circumstances to woo you, and show you that He loves you dearly.

"For my father and mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in." - Psalm 27:10