Monday, August 29, 2016

Choosing Gratitude & Knowing Who I Am

Psalm 97:10-12
“O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the light of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!”

Hate evil—that seems like such an obvious command. If you asked someone if they loved evil, no one in their right mind would ever say yes. Yet evil is exactly what we are. How much easier it is to do what is wrong, rather than right. It is easier to be fake, and to lie about who we truly are, than to be honest and real. It is easier to make others look bad, in order to make ourselves more appealing. It is easier to just dwell in darkness and not let the light come in, because the light illuminates, the light exposes, the light shows us who we truly are and what we are really made of. As much as I deny it, sin is my very nature, it is what I am made of, but not what I was intended to be. I, Charis Bassi, was made in the image of God, to reflect the glory of His likeness. I was not created to follow my flesh, to walk in my will, and make a name for myself. I was created to follow the spirit of God, to walk in His will (no matter how terrifying it may seem), and to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ. And if I would only believe in Him, that evil inside of me will be overcome by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He makes me upright in heart, and gives me a cause for joy amidst a dying world. He holds my life, he establishes my steps, and he delivers me in all of my troubles. So if I truly love the Lord, than I can push past the pain, kill my flesh into submission, and walk as He walked on this earth. How could I not do that for my God. He sent His son—perfect, holy, and blameless—to an earth that blasphemed against Him, and forsook His name. He was the one that everyone was waiting for, but nobody knew Him. I want to know Him. I want his light to eradicate the darkness inside of me, even if that means discovering the deepest, and scariest parts of my soul. Because embracing the light is embracing victory. Embracing the light is a life preserved, a joy illuminated, and a heart revived to recognize the grace of God that surrounds us. I want to recognize the grace of God. I want to see my sin, and remember that my holy God loves me. I want to see Jesus in people’s eyes, in the blooming flowers, the rainy skies, the incredibly beautiful days and the incredibly painful ones, because both are promised. But who doesn’t? Who doesn’t want to see the beautiful, overlooked things of life? Yet, so many don’t, and so often I don’t. I think the key is to know the darkness. You can’t recognize and appreciate light, until you are stuck in the dark. You can’t be helped until you recognize the need within you. You can’t see good, until yo go through the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can’t know the joy of victory, until you experience a few defeats. It’s honesty. It’s being honest with ourselves and with God, and realizing that our Amazing God, rich in love and abounding in mercy, wants a people who are so quick to turn away from Him. He loves us, and hates our evil. I love Him, and hate my evil, and He promises to deliver me, and bring me into the light. That is beautiful, and that is just another thing I have to be grateful for.

Application: I have a list of one thousand things that I am grateful for, and I want to get that list to two thousand things, by the time reentry ends at the end of October. Seeing God’s grace, means seeing me for who I am not, and that is something I so desperately need to be reminded of every day!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Drawing Near

Hebrews 4:16
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that I may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

I have access to all hope, yet I feel hopeless. I have access to all power and strength, yet I feel weak. I have access to grace, mercy, and forgiveness, yet I choose to wallow in self pity. I have the God of all comfort, yet I walk through life feeling utterly alone. It really doesn’t make sense. If Jesus were to ask me who I say that He is, I would tell Him that He is the Son of God, my Savior, my friend, the one who can do all things. And as much as my mouth would speak it, I am not so sure that my heart always believes it. I have a Father, a Savior, a Mighty God, a friend, and a High Priest who is not unable. I have access to a God who is able to do all things, who is not bound by the limits of human weakness, but I often am the one who sticks Him in a box and tells Him what He can or cannot do. Why? Why don’t I believe that God is who He says He is? That if I would only draw near to Him, than He would do the same to me. I guess I have a fear of coming to His throne of grace (as ridiculous as that sounds!). For as long as I can remember, I have been independent. I don’t like to be helped, and I really don’t like to tell people my problems. I want to do things on my own, but I am learning that I can’t. I can’t bear the weight of my sin, and I can’t hold onto everything I think or feel, all by myself. God did not create me, or any of us, to live this way. He created communion with Himself and each other. He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “Cast your cares on me, for I care for you” (1 Peter 5:7). And He also says, “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). It is only in this coming step, that I begin to discover who I am not, and who God is. It is only in drawing near to Him, that His character is more deeply and intimately revealed to me. He might have to tear me open a little bit. He might have to break me apart. He even might have to take things from my grasp that I have been holding onto for so long. But the pain of pruning means healing and new life in the end. It’s grace that draws us near, it’s grace that breaks our hearts, it’s grace that healing comes. Father, break me to heal me. Help my flesh to die, so that your spirit might live in and through me. May I not forget who you are—holy, able, loving, gracious, and mine. You are mine, and I am yours. Draw me in, Lord, and let me not be afraid. 

Application: I have spent a lot of time with Jesus this week, writing down all the things that are in my head, but I am not really good at telling people my struggles. When something pops up, I will tell Autumn what is on my mind, this week. 

Jars of Clay

2 Corinthians 4:7
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 

Jars of clay are fragile, they aren’t very beautiful, they crack and break easily, and that is exactly what I am. I am an earthen vessel. I crack easily, I fall apart, I am fragile, and truly I do not have this beautiful, valuable heart. But what gives me worth, what gives me value, and makes me beautiful, is the treasure that is living inside of me. God chose earthen vessels to hold the most beautiful prize of all—Jesus Christ. Some people may think God did this to make fun of our weaknesses, or maybe to ‘show off’ how perfect He is, and how vile we are. But that is not why He chose us. God has chosen me to possess the greatest gift in the world, to reveal His surpassing power and my utterly desperate need for Him. People see me serving the Lord here in Kenya, and many praise me as if I am the one doing anything. The reality is that it is not me, it is Him. It is my Jesus living inside of me, He is doing the work. It is His love, His strength, His grace, His words, His hands and His feet. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives inside of me, and apart from Him I really can’t do anything to further the gospel or build His kingdom on Earth. I remember before coming to Ignite, struggling with the idea of giving up dance, school, and work for an entire year. One day, He gave me this picture of a tree that had been stripped down to nothing—no leaves left, just limb and branches. That is exactly how I felt. I felt like God was stripping me down to nothing, taking everything that I thought I was, all the things that I had become so wrapped up in, away from my grasp. But I am learning now that all of those things, as much as I love them and still have a passion for them, do not compare to the treasure that lives inside of me, and the gift it is to share Jesus with the world. Colossians 3:3 says, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” My life is to be hidden with Christ in God. I am to live a life completely wrapped up in Jesus, that when people get to know me, they get to know Jesus, and when I speak, they hear words that are inspired by the Lord. That in all things, Christ is proclaimed in and through me. I am weak and feeble apart from the Lord. I am nothing more than a pile of dirt and dust in the wind; but with my God and in my God, I have purpose, worth, and beauty. I am not just a pile of clay, but a vessel being worked by the hands of the Master Potter, and being filled up day by day with Him, as I choose to pursue Him. Father, make my life to proclaim the power of Jesus Christ—not me, but always you. 

Application: I love to write, but I don’t really love to speak. But, I have been given an opportunity to speak at a girl’s study this week, and I will share this message with them. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Be Poor

2 Corinthians 6:4, 8-10
“but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities…through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” 

God, you have been overwhelming me with the fact that your plans are so beyond my reach, so far above the imagination of my mind. January 2015, when I was sick with a 103 degree fever and missed all of my finals, I began to really wrestle with what to do with my life, and where to go. I remember sitting in bed crying, and calling out to you. Then you gave me this vision: working with special needs kids all around the world. I thought it would be a cool thing to do one day, but never really believed it would come true. I didn’t know that my youth group’s missions trip to Antigua, Guatemala, just six months later, would entail going to a disabled community hospital, and getting to play with and pray over those kids. I didn’t know that you were going to call me back for Ignite Class 10 in January 2016, instead of attending Biola like I had planned. Then I was able to go to that very same hospital, almost every week, for three months. I didn’t know that you would send me to Kenya for six months, where I get to go to special unit every Wednesday. None of this was of my will. If I had it my way, you know that I would have gone to Biola. Certainly that would have been the easier, more comfortable choice, but this was your wild adventure, your journey to bring me upon. I am not the one who is writing my story. It’s not my responsibility, is it? No, it’s yours. I did not carve out this journey for my life, you did. Oswald Chambers says, “We are not here to do work for God because we have chosen to do so, but because God has laid hold of us.” “Not that I have already obtained this, or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12). It was you, God, who laid hold of me and drew me to yourself. I didn’t lead my feet to stand in Kenya, you did. You laid hold of me. You gripped my heart and said the word, “go.” And what a gift it is to know that I don’t have to figure my life out, because you have already done it. And I know that a life shaped by your hands, is a life filled to the brim with hope and peace, but, that doesn’t mean things will be easy. Without fail, someone gets sick nearly every week, and it’s discouraging. Every day, I am met with new spiritual battles—Satan telling me I am not good enough, or whatever lie he chooses to tell me for that day—but expected to pour myself out for the kids, and at the same time, watch them walk through things I have never experienced before. It’s hard. Sometimes, no, a lot of times, I want to give up. But you say that the time for salvation is NOW. NOW is the time to endure. NOW is the time to hold fast. NOW is the time to love. NOW is the time to give grace. NOW is the time to take heart. NOW is the time to rejoice. And NOW is the time to pour out until I have nothing left. Again, Oswald Chambers says, “The primary word of the spiritual vocabulary is now. Let circumstances take you where they will, but keep drawing on the grace of God in whatever condition you may find yourself…Never hold anything in reserve. Pour yourself out, giving the best that you have, and always be poor.” So yes, there is a constant struggle, but I am certainly not at it alone. God, you do not tell me to serve on my own. You don’t ask me to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. What you do ask me is to be faithful now, and to reach the end of myself. To reach the limits of what is humanely possible, allowing you to do the impossible. Jesus, may I leave this place completely empty. I have nothing to offer, but you, and you are everything. I have nothing, and yet I possess everything in you. NOW is the time to let you be God, and do the unexpected, unimaginable, things that only you can do. There are two months left. Jesus, let these grains of sand count. 

Application: I will write out the word now, and tape it to my wall, so that every day I am reminded that the time to live, endure, and love, is now. 

My Stream in the Desert

Acts 7:9-10
“And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt, but God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.”

I ran on rooftops, but God. I kicked and screamed, but God. I failed, fail, and will fail, but God. I hated myself, but God. I wasn’t enough, but God. I was weak, but God. I fell down, but God. I wanted to die, but God. I doubted, but God. The mantra of my life has always been, and forever will be, but God. Much of my life I have hated this. I wanted to save myself, fix myself, do good on my own, be strong enough, good enough, just enough, period. But the truth is, I am not. I don’t have the strength to face each day. I don’t have the ability to heal the holes in my heart. Broken things can’t fix broken things—it does more damage than good. Yet most of my life, I have walked around with this mask, this facade that says I have it all together; I can do it; I am not a broken vessel. Why did I do this? Why do I still do this? Why do we all hide our real selves from each other, and even worse, try to hide our real selves from God—the one who created us. We are not okay. I am not okay. I am such a failure, but God! Can’t I see that it is not about me? It never was about me, and it never will be, because it is truly all about someone who is so much bigger than ourselves. The truth is, you can’t depend on anyone in this life. Not your parents, not your siblings, not your friends, not your spouse, and certainly not yourself. No one can fix you, heal you, or pour out enough love to satisfy the depths of your soul. But there is one. There is one who is far above it all. He hasn’t failed me and He never will. He sees my shortcomings, and even still, He wants me. Jesus, my Savior, the one who descended from His throne above to piece me back together, and take the death that should have been mine. He knows the real me, and He pursues me moment by moment. He gets it. He gets my brokenness, and He doesn’t leave me hanging. He saw Joseph sold into slavery, mistreated and abused, and He rescued Him and led Him into a land of abundance because of His faithfulness to the Lord. He rescued and revived, restored and renewed—and He has been doing this same thing for me, time and time again. And He doesn’t just pick me up, set me down, and move onto the next basket case. He walks with me—before and beside—and leads me to lands that are flowing with milk and honey, if I walk obediently and in step with Him. He is my stream in the desert, my reason to sing, my sunshine and joy. He is my hope—the one who takes my brokenness aside and makes me beautiful. May ‘but God’ continue to be the anthem of my life, because I cannot handle this life on my own. I need you Jesus, desperately, and you want me deeply. And who gets the better deal from this relationship? Surely it is me. I gain in abundance. I gain everything in you. “There’s nothing that I have need of, because there’s nothing you haven’t done. You make my soul alive, you put your love inside” (Never Going Back—United Pursuit).
“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, be strong; fear not! Behold your God will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.” -Isaiah 35:3-6

Application: When I catch myself thinking of my present trials and sufferings, I will be intentional with prayer, and remind myself who my God is.

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

1 Samuel 12:24
“Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully, for consider what great things he has done for you.”

Zechariah 4:6
“Not by might, nor by my power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.”

It’s one of those days, God. Actually, it has been one of those weeks. One of those weeks where I wonder and allow my thoughts to wander far away from Kenya. I wonder about anything and everything, except my present ministry. I wonder why You brought me here. I wonder what my life would have looked like if I had just remained comfortable and gone to college. And when I think of these questions, the what could have beens, I become so discontent that I just want to give up. I know how awful this sounds, Lord, but it’s real. All that I can see, is all that I am not, and again I have found myself searching for something more apart from you. It’s an endless, vicious cycle, and I hate it. I hate that I allow myself to become discontent and ungrateful, unfulfilled and wanting more. I don’t want to live in emptiness, shallowness, and loneliness. I want to be free. I want to be faithful. I want to be rich in love and a giver of grace. I want to want you more than anything in the world. I love my team, I love these children, I love teaching Math and Bible, I love going to the children’s home and to special unit, and I love this country and all of it’s beautiful people, but God, I am not good enough to be here. I have nothing to offer these kids, and I have nothing to offer my teammates. I don’t know how to love. I don’t know how to serve. I don’t know how to teach. I don’t know how to be effective. But that’s just it—I can’t; You can. I am not strong enough, but you are. You are stronger than any force in this world, and in my weakness your strength is made perfect, and you shine. You don’t ask me to be enough, or to carry the weight of the world, you just ask me to come to you and drink deep of the rivers of living water. You ask me to come to you, willing to be broken apart, and then made whole in your hands. You ask me to come to you and surrender, to give it all away to the molding of your hands. You’re not asking for me to do anything more than be present in your presence. Jesus, help me to get out of the way so that you can shine through me. Help me to tear down any expectations I may have, and be here faithfully. I don’t have the words, the actions, or the love in my heart, but you do. God, you have it all, and all I need to do is ask. I may have nothing to offer in it of myself, but I have you, and Jesus you are everything. You are all these people need; you are all that I need, nothing more and nothing less. In times of discouragement, in times of not okayness, in seasons of fear and doubt, I must remember to remember. I must consider all that you have done for me. Father, you have been so gracious, and so good. I am on an adventure I never intended on going on, I am in a country I never thought I would live in, I am teaching things that I am not qualified to teach, and I am getting to work with special needs kids, once a week—the very thing I would have pursued in college, I am getting to do. There is no better place for me to be than right here in the center of your will. Thank you God, for sending me to Kenya, thank you for re-directing my life and holding my hand every step of the way. I am blessed, truly blessed to be here. Though I am not enough, you are enough. You are everything. Ignite awe and wonder within my heart, and teach me to be faithful as you have been so faithful to me. But may I not forget that it is okay to not be okay. You don’t ask me to have it all together, you just ask me to come to you, and pour out my heart before you (Ps. 62:8). And how beautiful it is, that in this not okayness, I have discovered my desperate need for you. I need you deeply and undeniably, because I truly can’t do this apart from you.

“The Holy Spirit is determined that we will have the realization of Jesus Christ in every area of our lives, and he will bring us back to the same point over and over again, until we do.” -Oswald Chambers// I read this just after writing these words. God is so good! 

Forgetting to Forgive

Titus 3:1-3
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”

Ouch. I look at these verses and I see so many areas that I fall short in. Submit to authority, but what if I am right and they are wrong? What if I don’t trust them? Speak evil of no one, but what if I need to get some things off of my chest? What if they wronged me? Be gentle—well that has always been a hard one for me. I grew up with two older brothers, gentleness is really not my natural tendency, but are any of these? No. No, not at all. I don’t like to submit, I am not quick to obedience, I speak evil of people, I fight back, I am not gentle, and I don’t show perfect courtesy to people. I fall short in every single area, and as much as I love to make excuses, I can’t. The Bible doesn’t leave room for excuses, and God certainly won’t make exceptions when He judges me. But thank God for grace. Thank God that he takes my shortcomings, and teaches me to yield to Him. Thank God that He heals broken bones, and binds up our wounds. Thank God that He trades beauty for ashes. John 8:36 says, “So if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” This does not mean that I am perfect, that I won’t slip up, or even that I won’t place myself back under the bondage of sin, it simply means that I am forgiven. God gave me the perfect pardon through the death of His son, and Titus 2:14 explains, “[Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” He died so that I might live. He died so that I might have second, third, twentieth, hundredth chances. He died to make me whole and restored, renewed and redeemed. He died to give my life a new purpose—a purpose that will build up His kingdom and bring to light the truth of His word. He gave me grace, grace upon grace upon grace, that I might give that same grace to others. No one likes to be kicked when they are already down and out, and to think that God could have done that to me—no, he should have done that to me, but He knew that what I really needed was love, discipline, and gentle guidance. So if God has imparted that same forgiveness and grace to me, what is stopping me from doing the same to others? 

Application: There is one person in my life right now that I am having a really hard time forgiving. I don’t want to be bitter anymore, I want to give grace. This week I will spend every day praying for that person, and praying for God to change my heart.