Saturday, February 27, 2016

Who Am I?

2 Corinthians 12:14-15
“For the body does not consist of one member, but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.”

I will be the first one to say that I have a comparison problem. When I am surrounded by a group of people, especially a group of believers, it is hard for me to not look at what other people have, and what I am lacking in. I criticize myself, often too harshly, and wonder if I will ever be good enough. Will I ever be as talented of a speaker as they are? Will I ever be as bold as they are? Will I ever be as kind as they are? Of course all of these things are good aspirations to have, and positive gifts to desire, but it eats me up inside. I am a thinker, and as much as I love people, I would rather be by myself, alone with my thoughts. But that is the problem. I let myself be alone with me, me and my flesh, me and satan. I never realized it before, but I talk to the devil far more than I talk to God. I hate it. I don’t want to be that person anymore, but how do I get rid of a problem that has consumed me for as long as I have been alive? I hate to admit it, but I have never felt good enough. I try so hard, and I always fail. From the time I was six, I spent anywhere from three to five days a week in a room full of mirrors, with a room full of beautiful girls, and even more beautiful dancing. Our classes and rehearsals were thankfully filled with encouragement, but it was impossible not to compare. “I wish I had her turn out. I wish I was as flexible as her. I wish I had her lines. I wish I was as strong as her. I wish my feet weren’t so flat. I wish I could be just as good as her.” Everyday I battled these thoughts, but I knew my friends beside me struggled in the very same way. I was not alone. One day, our teacher turned all of the lights off, put on a song, and we all danced. I know it sounds kind of weird, but my teacher was making a point. She wanted us to learn how to dance in the dark, before we danced in the light. She wanted us to learn how to be ourselves completely, how to dance with all transparency, when no one was watching. If you are reading this Lindsay, I got the point! I was free, we were all free. There was no wishing I could be someone else, it was just me and Jesus dancing together, and it was beautiful. It was in that moment that I realized the days I danced the worst, were the days I compared and complained. If I kept my eyes on who I was truly dancing for, who designed me with this gift, who loved me just as he created me, everything was different, I felt like I could breathe. Oh how this applies to my walk with God. I become so introverted, that all I can see is me and all I can hear are the deceiving wanderings of my mind. I run around with both of my hands covering my eyes, wondering why I can’t gain a new perspective and see God. I look to man, I look to myself, I turn away from the Lord. I take on a mindset of pride, thinking that I know better than God. “If you would have just given me this gift…If you would have just made me more like her, I would be more effective for your kingdom.” That is a lie straight from hell. I must stop looking at what God has not given me, and start looking at what he has. Because the fact of the matter is, we are all broken, useless, sinful vessels. On our own, we are nothing, we are simply a pile of ashes. But God. In the hands of the master potter, we are whole, valuable, and righteous. With him, we are more, so much more. We are beautiful. God, let my feet stand firmly established in who I am in you. I am so done talking with the devil and becoming absorbed with myself, and everything I am not. I am a child of God, bought by the precious blood of Christ, because he so loved. He could have forsaken, but he so loved. All is grace. All is found. Nothing is lost. I am rescued. I am redeemed.

Application: I will talk to one of my girl teammates about this IBS, and share things with her, that I normally would keep bottled up inside. 

To All

1 Corinthians 9:19
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.”

A servant to all. Time and time again I have heard the phrase, “actions speak louder than words,” and as overused as it may be, it is absolute truth. If the way I walk does not line up with the way I talk, than I have a serious problem. So often I do not practice what I preach. I like to pick and choose parts of the bible, and the parts I leave out are usually the parts that will take me out of my comfort zone. But I am called to live a life that lines up with Christ’s. Though I can never, ever attain perfection, I must strive, grow, and reach to be transformed into the likeness of Christ’s image. And who is this Jesus that I am supposed to become like? That may sound like a funny question for a Christian to ask, but I so easily forget. He is the Son of the Most High God, God in the flesh, the perfect lamb slain on my behalf. He did everything for me: to know me, to love me, to captivate me, to rescue me, to hold me, to save me and refine me into something beautiful, something useful, in the hands of the Master Craftsman. He came to heal, save, restore, and serve. Yes, serve the very people who would quickly turn their backs on Him, deny they knew Him, and yell, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” Jesus knew all of this would come to fruition, and still he loved, to the very end. When he finally knew that his time had come, the scriptures say that Jesus washed his disciples feet. One final act of service, before the price was paid. If this is not at the forefront of our minds, what motivation will we have to serve other sinful, underserving humans like ourselves? Matthew 20:26-28 says, “…But whoever would be great among you, must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you, must be your slave, even as the Son of Man did not come to serve, but to be served and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 2 Corinthians 4:5 says, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” If I am to be a servant to all, I must first be a servant to the Lord. I must deny my rights, my titles, my fears and anxieties, and press on to know him deeper, seek him further, and love him more; always more. Like a tree, my roots must reach deep and wrap around the solid rock, holding onto Him for dear life. I cannot serve others in my own strength, I can do nothing apart from my Maker. If I am not planted in the love of Christ, my relationship with Him will cease to abound, and every relationship thereafter, will forever change. Everything flows from my friendship with Christ. I want to be a reflection of Jesus, a lamp that is not hidden and does not cease to radiate in the darkness and in the light. I must serve for Christ’s sake, because he first loved me and served me when he knew I would forsake him. Jesus be the heartbeat of all that I do. May your love compel me to love others wholeheartedly, and serve them expecting nothing in return. 

Application: This week, I will do one random act of service/kindness for one of my teammates.  

Kindred Hearts

Ecclesiastes 4:12
“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

A threefold cord is a piece of rope made up of three separate strands. On their own, the cords are weak. They cannot withstand a lot of pressure, they do not hold things together well, and they prove to have little use, but together they are strong. Unity changes everything. Unity, coming together as a body of believers, enables us to withstand heavy weight,  and hold together through the fiercest storms. We prove to have great use because of the love of Christ that binds us together, and when we are working together with one mind, one love, one spirit, and one purpose, nothing should be able to stop us. Since being in Guatemala, I have seen this verse come to life many times. Last Saturday, during our outreach at the local market, we became swamped with a swarm of kids asking for balloon animals. There were only a handful of people in our team of twenty one who actually knew how to make the animals, but that did not stop the rest of us from trying. We found the need, worked together, encouraged one another, stood alongside each other, and fulfilled it. Together, we are empowered by the holy spirit to accomplish great and mighty things for the kingdom of the Lord. We need each other. We need people who share the same heart for the Lord, to come alongside us and strengthen us when we are weak, build us up with the word, and lovingly tell us when we are wrong. This week, Pastor Rob has been teaching about the life of David, and I can’t help but connect this verse to the brotherhood between David and Jonathan. 1 Samuel 23:15-16 says, “David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose up and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God.” “Though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand…” Jonathan strengthened David with the presence and the promises of the Lord. Wow! I want to be this friend; the friend who is constantly pointing people to the cross, and holding them up when they are weak. We can not survive in this wicked world alone, and God knew it when he created us. So if you are wondering why you long for deep friendships, and relationships, it is because God placed that holy desire in your heart, when he breathed life into your lungs. God, I pray that I would be this friend to others, but I pray that I would desire to be knit together to you before anyone else. 

Application: I will write a letter to two of my best friends, who have been “Jonathan's” in my life. I will also be praying that God would give me opportunities to pour into others, and strengthen their arms.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Get Over Yourself

1 Corinthians 9:22
“To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”

Change. I tend to hate that word out of selfishness, because it usually impacts only me. In my mind, change means that I have done something wrong, or that I am not good enough, so I need to fix myself. Or maybe it has nothing to do with me, and I am simply effected by the choices another person made. Either way, change has never been a dear friend of mine. But the change in this verse is not negative, it is indeed a positive change. It is adaptability. It is exactly what Jesus did for us. It is hard to imagine that the God of the universe would manifest in human flesh, just to reach mankind and become one of us. The Bible says that God sent Jesus to this world to be the ultimate sacrifice, the perfect lamb of God, who would take our debt and pay it in full. But Jesus also came to earth in order to experience all of the same trials we face. He wanted to be relatable, He wanted me to know just how much he cared for me. The life of Jesus is the greatest example of adaptability that has ever existed. If the Son of God could leave the glorious, incomprehensible, beauty of heaven to meet me in this horribly wicked earth, than I should be able to go out to any people group on any continent, and become like one of them. Of course I must not conform my beliefs, values, and morals, but I must be willing to step out of my comfort zone and enter into a way of life that might be uncomfortable, or foreign. In order to have effective ministry, I must adapt to the surrounding culture. If this means that I have to eat foreign foods, wear different clothes, carry myself or speak in a different manner, then I will, and I will do it all for the glory of God, even if my actions only plants a seed in one heart, it will be worth it. I must remember that I might be the first glimpse of Jesus that these people see, and that is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. I am the hands and feet of the Lord, and I am his mouthpiece. Every word I speak, every move I make, every action I carry out, is a reflection of Christ in me. Jesus, help me to get over myself, and reach out to people with your unending, everlasting love. May I be willing to become all things for all men, even if it only impacts one soul. To you be the glory, forever and ever! 

Application: This week I will pray for the people of Kenya every day. I will pray that their hearts are softened to the word of God, and I will pray that God will use me to reach that one lonely soul. 

Free to Serve

Galatians 5:13
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

Freedom. Our culture has taken this word to a whole different level, and given it a new meaning. Walk one day in the streets of America and you will see people racing past you, heads down, bumping into you without apologizing. You will see rallies of people picketing for their beliefs and trash talking anyone who disagrees. Everyone has a mission, a one worded purpose: Me. No one else matters as much as me. No one’s opinion is as important as mine. No one knows what I am going through. We live in a self oriented culture, and no matter how hard you try to preserve your humility, the poison of selfishness always creeps in. Even believers, even christian schools, and yes, even the church are corrupted by self. We are sick people, completely corrupt, and blind to anyone else but ourselves. If I am being honest, I have never thought of myself as a selfish person, but oh, was I wrong. It took me leaving America to a foreign country, moving in with 21 complete strangers, to finally realize that I constantly think about myself. “I want to eat dinner, so everyone else needs to hurry up and get in line.” “I need to get ready, so I am going to use the mirror first.” “I don’t like to pray out loud, so I will let somebody else do it.” I need to get over myself. We need to get over ourselves. Yes, I matter. Yes, I am important. But who am I to think of myself as better than anyone else? This mentality can only come when we are uprooted from God’s love; when we forget what He did for us, how he died for us, and how he loved us, when we wanted nothing to do with him at all. Matthew 22:37-39 says, “You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This verse has lost it’s meaning for so many believers, even myself, but I was looking at it wrong. I see a list of rules, instead of a list of opportunities. I have the opportunity to lean into the love of Christ, drink deep from his mercies, and shine his love, which has the power to save a life. How different life would look like if my one worded purpose was others. How different life would look like if the entire body of believers rejected self, and embraced people. The world would change, I am sure of it. Freedom would take on a new meaning, the meaning God had always intended: love. Freedom for believers is rooted in love, and it starts when we fall in love with Jesus, and remember the great love that he has lavished upon us. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says, ”The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it? I, the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jesus, search my heart and rid me of myself. Fill me up with you, to the point of overflowing. May I abide in your love, and may your love radiate in my life, that I might serve all those around me. 

Application: This weekend I will follow the will of the Lord and call up one of my friends to pray over them. I want to remind them of how much I love them, but even more so, how much the Lord cares for them. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Jesus be my Heartbeat

Hebrews 5:8
“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”

“Although he was a son.” Although Jesus was the Son of the Most High God, the Great High Priest, the Creator of the universe, and the Blameless Lamb of God, He had to learn obedience unto the will of God. That baffles me, but I so easily forget that though Jesus was fully God, he was also fully man. He never sinned, but he met temptation just as much as I do. He never strayed from God’s will, but the flesh within him surely attempted to persuade Jesus to follow his own path. Through it all, he had to learn what it meant to be obedient and yielded unto the Lord. Unfortunately, the times that we truly grow and learn what it means to be godly, are the times we are in the dark, suffering, and fighting off the devil and his flaming arrows. 1Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” 2 Timothy 3:12-14 also states: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you have learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  These verses spoke volumes to me. As a little girl, I spent at least four days a week at my church, and I still have never known a life without it. But as I have grown up, I have seen countless people stray away. People that I committed my life to the Lord with, was baptized with, and went to retreats, camps and conferences with. All of those boys and girls that I grew up with, knew the bible inside and out, and grew up in the church just like me, so why did they leave? Suffering. They forgot that a life in pursuit of God, is not all rainbows and butterflies. Christians love to neglect the fact that we will suffer, and when they do suffer, they blame God and flee. But how would we know growth if we weren’t first pruned? How would we know joy, if we hadn’t first experienced pain? Suffering is necessary and though it hurts and often times, blinds us, it refines us and has the power to make us sweeter and purer human beings. The power is in our hands, however, and it is a deliberate choice we must make every day. Philippians 1:29 says, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him, but also suffer for his sake.” For the sake of Christ. For the sake of Christ we suffer, because he did not just suffer for us, but he died for us, and he died because his soul loves us and longs to know us. There will be times in my life that I feel like I am just barely getting by, and there will be times of thriving and great joy. In either case, may I learn obedience. May I not forget that God puts us in situations in order to teach us more about His mighty power, and the nature of our weak and sinful hearts. Whether we are in the darkness or in the light, may we cling to Jesus and remain rooted and built up in His love. May we not forget the why. The why we became Christians in the first place. Let Jesus be the heartbeat of your life and the motivation behind every single thing you do.

Application: Tonight, I will sit down with Sara (my RA) and ask her how I can improve and how she has seen me growing throughout the six weeks I have been at IGNITE. I will listen to her criticism and be obedient to her guidance. 

Kicking and Screaming

Acts 5:29-32
“But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God, rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Obedience. Hmm, if I am being completely honest, this is an area that I have struggled with all of my life. Growing up, I was a little fireball, at least with my family. I never took naps, but would instead stay awake and throw all of my shoes at the door. I was certainly not the submissive, obedient daughter my parents had hoped for. I have always been outspoken, sassy, and strong willed, and though those characteristics have diminished over time, I have noticed that the same way I treated my parents, stubborn and resistant, is the same exact way I am with God. I resist the voice of the Lord all day long, and try to ignore the leading of his Holy Spirit. I do not want to be taken out of my comfort zone, and surely I know what is best for me. It is M Y life isn’t it? Is it not M Y time, M Y energy, M Y future, and M Y happiness that God is trying to take away from me? Writing these words makes me feel so dirty! How could I possibly think and say such a thing? How could I say no to God? Have I not read the bible enough times to know that every person who says no to God, ends up paying a heavy price? I guess that is the problem. I grew up in the church, went to a Christian school, and danced at a Christian dance studio. My whole life has been surrounded by Jesus. I know all of the bible stories, and important verses, but that is where the problem resides: I simply know. Surely some of this knowledge has taken root in my heart to produce fruit and grow wisdom and understanding within me, but a lot of the seed landed on the rocky soil of my hardened heart. I need a heart transplant. Ezekiel 11:19-20 says, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people and I will be their God.” He will cut out my heart and replace it with a heart that is restored and made whole by his Spirit; that I might walk daily disciplined, in obedience to his will. The apostles clearly understood this verse. They were thrown into prison because they performed so many miracles that people would actually place the sick in the apostle’s shadows, hoping that they would be healed. Then God set them free, and what did they do? They began to proclaim the gospel in the temple, telling the high priests that they were the ones who killed Jesus. They were completely led by the spirit, yielded to his will. God knocked on their hearts, and instead of throwing shoes at the closed door like myself, they opened up and did as the Lord called. Even after they preached the gospel, they were beaten and told never to speak of Jesus again, but they left, glorying in the fact that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ (Verse 40-41). This is the life I want to live, and this is the heart I desire to behold. God give me a heart transplant. May I not be numb to who you are. I can never know enough about you, Lord, there is always deeper still. 

Application: I will pray this morning, as soon as I wake up, and tonight, before I go to bed, that God would bind my wandering heart to His, and give me a spirit that is willing and eager to submit to His will. 

I Choose

Romans 6:16
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin which leads to death, or of obedience which leads to righteousness.”

This verse is powerful, but I think it is even more impactful, coupled with verses 17 and 18. They say, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” Every day we have a choice: yield to the desires of the Lord, or submit ourselves to the desires of our flesh. Be held captive by sin, or be captivated by the Lord. Easier said than done. There are countless distractions and innumerable thoughts racing through my mind, day after day. Just the other day during on the mount, (our set aside devotional time) I spent one hour writing out a three page prayer. I took five minute breaks, just to clear my mind because, in all honesty, I was thinking about everything but God. My thoughts wandered off to what my future will look like, how my team will do in Kenya, and the laundry list of things I needed to get done that day. Often times, escaping from my fleshly desires just seems impossible and I give up. How can I truly deny my self, my innate nature, and choose to follow the one person that my flesh battles every second of the day? But this verse reminded me that I am a slave to either sin or God, the choice is in my hands.  Will I choose life, or death? Most of the time, I choose sin. I choose self and it leads to my death. I lose the wonder that my soul so longs to experience, and God becomes that far off guy sitting in the clouds, watching me suffer. But there are so many other moments that I choose life. I choose Jesus and it leads to my resurrection. It certainly is not the easy path, by any means. Being a Christian is rough; it requires a daily death to my comfort zone, what I want, and how I want to live, but again, it is life. Hosea 6:1-2 says, “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days, he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up that we might LIVE before him.” Returning to the Lord and submitting to his unforeseen purposes, requires us to break apart. We have to allow God to invade our hearts, and remove all of our unwillingness, and all of our filth from the depths of our being. Only then will we find fulfillment, healing, purpose, an obedient spirit, and true life. Verse three of that same chapter goes on to say, “Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Let us walk in obedience to know and understand God more than the day before, and he will reveal his heart to ours. He will appear. God, I want to be your bond servant. I want to be anxious for the things of the Lord, and overjoyed to pursue His purposes. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

Application: Today I will be led by the spirit, and be obedient to God’s will. The past few days, God has been impressing on my heart to go talk to someone here, and I am finally going to listen and obey. 

To God First

Colossians 3:20
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”

Ephesians 6:1
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

Obedience is really not my strong suit. Denying my interests and submitting to someone else’s commands has always been a struggle of mine. As I expressed earlier, I was a pretty feisty kid. I wore the mask at church and school, but when I was alone with my family, I battled anger more than the average child. I had no reason to blow up at my family. God gave me some pretty rad parents who love Jesus more than anything, and trained me up in the word of God. Plus, two older brothers who still go out of their way to drive me insane, but would protect me from anyone, or anything, that ever got in my way. Even still, I would find reasons to become enraged, and I struggled from the time I was a toddler, until I was about 11 or 12. I would get mad over just about anything, and often times, I truly had no idea why I was kicking and screaming.  Around the age of 8 or 9, I began to run outside when no one was looking, and climb onto my roof. I thought about throwing myself off, several times, but by God’s grace, I never did. By the time I was 11, something started to click within me, and I finally allowed God to work in my heart. I began to recognize that the only times I calmed down, were when my mom held me, prayed over me, and read scripture to me. After this realization, I wrote out several scriptures on notecards, and read them out loud every night before I went to bed, and every time I felt myself getting angry. I am overjoyed to say that it worked. How did it work, you might ask? Because I was submitting my spirit, to God’s spirit. I was changing allegiances and choosing to fight, and walk in obedience, rather than talk with the devil and let him guide my path. God completely wrecked my heart, and remade me into a new creation. By his strength, through his grace, and in his love, I am not who I once was. Psalm 44:3 says, “Not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand, and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.” I am a bondservant of Christ. I am not perfect, by any means, but I am a fighter and I will continue to fight to be set free. I will fight to be a child yielded unto the Lord, because before we can be obedient to our parents, or anyone for that matter, we must learn to be obedient to God. Then and only then will we know what freedom is. And what is freedom? Denying yourself, and daily walking in obedience to the voice of the Lord. Jesus, give me ears to hear your voice, eyes to see your beauty, lips to praise your name, and a soul in tune with your will. 

Application: On Saturday, when I have wifi, I will call my family and tell them how thankful I am for their prayers, and the love they lavished on me even when I was a mess. I will also read my notecards with scripture on them, every night before I go to bed this week. 

Thankful Hearts

Hebrews 13:17
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with JOY and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

If I am being honest, doing this IBS right now is the last thing I want to do. I feel like I am just repeating myself over and over and again. I understand that obedience is a huge subject, and it is absolutely something I struggle with, but I feel like I have completely run out of words to say. But, as I re-read this verse a couple dozen times, I noticed a word that all the other verses this week have lacked: joy. I love that virtue, and I love what it means to us as believers. This verse asks, or rather, commands us to do everything obediently, with joy. Philippians 2:14-15 says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” The fact of the matter is that the world is watching you, whether you like it or not. They are looking to see if what you preach matches up with the way you live, and in a world where complaining and hateful words fill our ears to the brim, a smile and a cheerful spirit can go a long way. But as I dug deeper into what Joy biblically means, I discovered that it is so much more than a fleeting smile and a kind word. Joy is rooted in thanksgiving, and I mean that in a very literal sense. The greek word for thanksgiving is eucharisteo, which is derived from two words: charis, meaning grace, and chara, meaning joy. An ungrateful heart will never be fulfilled, but a grateful heart is filled to the point of overflowing. A joyful spirit has eyes to see God’s amazing grace in the dark, and in the light. Their heart is satisfied in the will of the Lord, and the joy that is produced, keeps them strong and running, in obedience, to the arms of Jesus. Jesus, may your joy fill my heart, and may I be satisfied in you alone. When people see me, may they see you, radiating through my words and deeds. Jeremiah 7:24 says, “But they [the Israelites] did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward, and not forward.” May I move forward in obedience and submit to the guidance of your hand. Keep my gaze ever upwards and onwards, and may my ears be attentive to your voice. 

Application: Today, I will set aside time to sit outside and write out a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord. I will not talk about myself, my worries and concerns, but rather, take in the creation that surrounds me, and praise God. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

One Thing I Seek

Psalm 17:15
“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” 

This verse led me on a little bunny trail through scripture. Right next to Psalm 17:15, I had written down Psalm 27:4 which says, “One thing I have asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” And finally, next to Psalm 27:4, I had written down 2 Thessalonians 3:5: “May the Lord direct, your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” The one thing these verses have in common is just that. One thing: that we might be directed to the face of Christ, beholding his glory, staring right into his beaming eyes saying, “I am satisfied in you.” Yesterday during on the mount (our devotional time), I was pondering a time in my life that I was truly dissatisfied with the Lord, and that time in my life was one year ago. I had applied to two colleges and I was accepted into both schools. I did well on the SAT, and my AP tests, but the money just wasn’t adding up. I couldn’t possibly understand the reason why. I was trying so hard, and it seemed like God kept slamming door after door, right in my face. Although my mouth was saying, “God, I trust you. Have your way in my life.” My heart was truly saying, “God, you don’t know what is best for me. Just give me what I want.” That is the problem isn’t it? We ask for what we want, instead of what we need. We ask God to open up the door we want opened, instead of asking him to shut every door, except the perfect one. My eyes and my mind had forsaken the face of the Lord, but Jesus kept whispering. It wasn’t until July, three weeks before I was supposed to move into my dorm room, that I decided to shut up and let God speak. I was here in Antigua, sitting in a hammock at our hostel. All Summer long, God had faithfully reminded me, week after week, to wait and be still. I remember sitting there doing my devotions, reading yet another verse about trusting God, and I told him that I was sick of waiting for Him to speak. I needed to know what he was doing with my life, right then and there. As selfish as I was, God spoke, and he told me that I would be coming back to Guatemala. I did not believe it first, but here I am, seven months later by the grace of God, and I would not change a thing. Of course I regret not trusting God, but I can’t help but look at all that He did in my time of desperation. He met me right where I was at, and taught me how to be wholly reliant and dependent on his strength, and his strength alone. I can truly tell you that I am satisfied in the Lord. I am thankful for the valley we walked through, because in it God showed me the depths of his love, and the vastness of his might. May my gaze be ever upward, and may I allow God to invade my heart, filling every cavern with Him to the point of overflowing. God, be the heartbeat of all that I do, open my eyes to see yours staring right back into mine. “Oh God be my everything, be my delight. Be Jesus, my glory, my soul satisfied.”

Application: Saturday night, when I have wifi, I will not use it to go on social media, or call my friends and family. I will post my blogs, and log off of the wifi, as soon as I am done. After this is accomplished, I will go spend time with Jesus, and truly be content in him alone.

Choose Joy

Philippians 4:11
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

Paul was an extraordinary human being. He was persecuted, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and shipwrecked many, many times. It seems as though there was no pain Paul had not experienced. How could a man with such a rough life say, that in all things, he has learned to be content. In Philippians 3:8b-9a, he even says, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him…”  The key to Paul’s hope and joy is found in his perspective. Paul knew who he was suffering for and out of the abundance of his pain, God’s peace and beautiful grace would shine through, bringing great gain to all those around him. Paul knew that one way or another, God would deliver him, because he had a steadfast, unshakable knowledge of who God was. How easy am I to forget who my God is. All I see is the hurt he has allowed in my life. All I see is the cost I am paying. But who am I to even utter those words, “the cost I am paying.” Did I forget the price Jesus paid to save, rescue, and heal me. He gave up his rights and came down to the earth and undeservedly was beaten, rejected, tortured, tormented, and sentenced to death. Though I was not physically there to participate in his murder, I yell, “Crucify him, crucify him,” every time I sin and reject his will. Even in knowing this, Jesus endured death upon the cross for me. It was all for me. It was all to have me. My present pain does not compare to what Jesus went through to save me. He paid it all, and all to him I owe. This does not mean that I cannot doubt God, or mourn my circumstances. In fact, I believe that in those moments of deep darkness, God’s light shines the brightest, but we have to have eyes to see. Many times, I look at life and all of its brokenness, and I become angry. I remember one time in particular that God really rocked my world. Last July, I came to Antigua on a missions trip and one of our last days, we went to Escquintla; also known as the city dump. The poverty the children were living in, wrecked my heart. I remember washing some dishes, watching the kids running around with joy in their hearts, wondering how. How could they be so content with their lives? I have seen plenty of sparrows back in America, better fed than these children. I thought God was the great provider? On the bus ride back to Antigua, God revealed to me a sight that I had forgotten. In the muddy, garbage ridden road, was a whole cluster of butterflies that flew up out of the trash as we drove by. Those butterflies reminded me of something I so easily forget: In the broken, ugly situations of life, God creates beauty and he brings joy out of sorrow, and abundance out of poverty. Those kids knew that, but I did not. I know with certainty that those children could proclaim, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” How desperately I desire to be like Paul and the kids from Escquintla. All it takes is my eyes to open up again. All it takes is a new perspective; to see life through the gracious eyes of Christ and remember the pain he went through to rescue me out of the ashes. Jesus, whether I am content or discontent, help me to remember the price you paid for me, and may it spur me on to live life fully for your glory, that the world might see you living inside of me. 

Application: Being that it was my birthday yesterday, I asked God to give me a message for my nineteenth year. Ironically enough, the theme for this week, was contentment, and that is just what God spoke to my heart. He continues to show me that I need to learn how to be wholly reliant, and fully satisfied in him and him alone. This morning, I will fast until lunch, that I might be able to spend quality time with my Jesus, just me and him. 

Be a Bondservant

Hebrews 13:5
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you.’”

  Three words stuck out to me in this passage: free, content, and forsake. Freedom. No one knows what freedom really is until they have first experienced captivity, bondage, and slavery. Most people would never admit to being a slave and I don’t think most recognize that they are in bondage. It seems degrading, offensive even, but we are all slaves whether we choose to believe it or not. Some are shackled by money, as the verse describes, others by relationships. The list could go on and on with thousands of different sins, unique to every person living in this world. But all of mankind has one thing in common: we are all held prisoner by our very own flesh. It seems inescapable, being that it is our innate nature and way of life. Moment by moment, my own thoughts hold me prisoner, and some days, I just don’t feel like fighting. 2 Corinthians 3:16-17 offered me hope. “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” When I turn to the Lord, there is freedom. When I allow Jesus to grab both of my hands and peel them away from my eyes, I can see again, and the light that encapsulates me is nothing short of glorious. It is true that sin will always find a way of creeping in to my life, but I can choose who I will be a slave to: God, or the devil. I know that sounds weird, being a slave to God, but this week Pastor Don McClure explained that a bondservant is a person who has gone bankrupt and must work a minimum of seven years enslaved to his master. If by the end of those seven years the slave decides to continue working for his master, he becomes a bondservant. For a moment it puzzled me. Why would anyone want to remain a slave? Pastor Don wisely continued, saying that it was the mutual love between the master and the slave that would keep him possessed by his master, and no one else could ever own the slave. He was fully his master’s servant, out of his own free will. Now it makes sense. In order to be truly free, I have to change my alliance. Do I want to be possessed by the world, or by the Lord? Am I so in love with Jesus, that I would let him invade my heart, and chisel away all of my sin? This leads me to the next word, content. Am I content in being God’s servant? Am I satisfied in being his daughter? Does he fulfill the deepest parts of my soul? Better yet, do I let him? I hate recognizing my own discontentment and emptiness. I have a loving family, great friends, an incredible church, and a home, but still there is a hole. As I mentioned earlier, God completely stretched my idea of contentment and satisfaction when my dad lost his job. I recognized the deep longings of my soul and I knew that I needed something more, and that something more was God. Psalm 36:7-8 says, “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” My God is a God of simplicity. All he asks of me is to come to him and he will give me fountains of living water to fill my heart to the point of overflowing. When I find my soul searching for more, stuck in the rut of discontentment, all I have to do is come and take refuge in the shadow of his wings. But pride. Pride holds me back constantly. I think I can do everything on my own, in my own strength, but as God has been teaching me, I can’t. In fact, I can’t do any good apart from Him. But if I humble myself and cry out, he will hear my voice, answer my call, and empower me. I can be free and find contentment because my God does not leave or forsake me. He is not a far off God, and every day he wants us to boldly approach his throne and lay our sins down at his feet. Pride, again, keeps me from wanting to do this. I love to believe that my sin is not that bad, or that I don’t really need to change, but that is a lie straight from the devil. I do have sin in my life, and the only one who can deliver me is God. And here is the wonderful thing: when you lay your sin at his feet, you are set free, and when you are set free, your heart is filled with joy and contentment for the grace that God has lavished upon you. I deserve nothing, but freely he gives. He is the Supreme Being, the Creator of the Universe, and he will not leave the one his soul loves and longs for. Yes, God longs for me, and he longs for you. May our hearts glory in who our maker is, and how he loves us recklessly. 

Application: This week, I will pray every day for God to open my eyes and show me all of his faithfulness in my life. I will ask him to make me content, wholly in him alone. 

Cultivate Gratitude

Luke 3:14
“The soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.’”

I have always been a lover of history, and biblical history especially excites me. In this passage, some of the prophecies of Jesus come to life. John the Baptist is living on the earth and finally, the moment he has been waiting for: God tells him to begin preparing the way for the coming of Jesus. Obediently, he preaches repentance and forgiveness of sins, which introduces the idea of a personal relationship with God. John was making straight the paths for Jesus to come, and the people did not know what to do with themselves. Sinners of all kinds began to approach him, carrying the baggage of their sin and the weight of their past, heavily on their shoulders. What an image. Sinners were coming to lay down their burdens, and soon they would be able to sit at the feet of the Son of the Most High God! This is an encouragement to me today. I need to come and come boldly to the feet of Jesus and humbly lay down all of my sin, asking him to wash me clean. The Roman Soldier comes in need of change and he leaves with a very simple way of being cleansed and healed. He is told not to lie, or steal, and to graciously receive the wage that was given to him. In essence, he was commanded to reject his former ways, cast his sins far from him, and learn to find contentment. Be honest. Be true. Be grateful. The problem I find, is in the coming. I know the message of repentance, I know the message of forgiveness, and I know that it is life for followers of Jesus Christ. I also know that repentance and forgiveness means change, and change means pruning, and pruning means pain. It is a selfish thought process, but it is one that genuinely runs through my mind when I feel convicted of my sin. Since being at IGNITE, I have learned that I must come boldly to the throne of God: day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second. I must fight my flesh, which persistently tells me, “No! You do not need God to heal you. You have done nothing wrong.” Jesus wants to pick up our burdens, and he wants to teach us, in all simplicity and grace, how to be free and how to be content with the hand he has dealt us. Though repentance requires change, I will come, because I know that the pruning process produces great gain in the heart of a sinner like me. It is by the grace and mercy of God, that he even wants me to be grafted into his tree. John 15:4-5 says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” I am nothing apart from God, and apart from him I have nothing. May I be content, no, overjoyed, with what he has given me. And what has he given me? Life love, grace, mercy, everything. All is gain in the hands of my father.

Application: Tonight I will meet up with Shannon and share with her things in my life that make me discontent. Together, we will pray that God will transform my heart and make me a grateful human being. 

Bloom Where You are Planted

1 Timothy 6:6-8
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

Godliness has always puzzled my mind. I am only a mere human being. I sin hundreds of times each day, and there are moments that I reject God and choose the world. How can I be godly? How can I be like God? The creator of the universe, the one who spoke the world into motion by his very breath, and loves without an end. I found my answer in 2 Corinthians 3:18. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the spirit.” Becoming like God, starts and ends when we look to God, and make every effort to pattern our lives after the perfect life he lived on earth. There is no gain found living in the world, but there is an opportunity for believers to radiate and reflect Christ, and offer great gain to those around them. The problem is our flesh. Everything within us fights against imitating Jesus, and being his hands and feet. Every week we sing, “take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,” but we don’t really mean it. We love our comfortable lives. We love the shallow end and whatever makes us feel safe. We love to go to church on Sunday, and go back to being ourselves on the weekdays. Very few can say that they are genuinely satisfied in the love of God, alone. There are usually other earthly things, such as people, jobs, titles, money, and various possessions, that momentarily fill our lives with bliss. We are content with what makes us happy, but we are not content in Christ as he calls us to be. More often than not, I am not content with Christ because I know that it requires change, the one thing I truly hate. But this year, God is setting me free. Remaining comfortable in my own little bubble, means missing out on the incredible things God has in store for me all the way in the deep end. I can genuinely say that all I desire is to be in the deep end. I do not want to be comfortable anymore. I want to be radical and I want to grow. There is nothing on earth that will cause me, or the world around me, greater gain than becoming like God and radiating his light. My mom is the perfect example of a godly woman. When I was younger, I battled anger and rage, and my mom always received the brunt of my tantrums. I can rarely remember her ever yelling back at me, all I remember is hearing scripture softly spoken in my ears. When I was in my room screaming, she was on her knees praying. It was evident that she had experienced the glory of the Lord, because it was so clearly displayed in her actions and words. She gives light and love more than anyone I have ever met and I am forever grateful to have such an incredible woman in my life. 

Application: Today, I will make a list of godly characteristics that I find in my devotions and I will pray that God will help me to be satisfied in him and him alone. 

Before and Beside

Psalm 16:8
“I have set the Lord always before me, because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”
When I first read this verse, I was encouraged and yet, confused. This verse says that the Lord is before and he is at my right hand, but what does that mean? I get it, God is everywhere, but I still do not understand how the Lord can be before and beside. Then God reminded me of what he has done in my life, and how he has proven to hold my hand and guide my way. In 2008, my dad lost his job for almost two years. I was just entering Jr. High…as if life weren’t awkward enough. I tried to hold it together, and show the world how strong I was, but inwardly, I was crumbling. I grew up in the church, so I knew how to wear the mask well, but my soul longed for something more. No amount of money, no nice house, and no fancy meal could fill the holes in my heart, and I knew it. I felt like my life was falling apart, but truly it was falling into place. At the time, I was blindsided by my pain and I could not see the presence of the Lord, but he was there. Oh, how he was there. Amazingly, during those two years, my parents were able to send my brother and I to private school, and I was able to continue pursuing dance four times a week, due to the generosity and grace of many people. Saying these words out loud blows my mind. God is faithful and he is good. I didn’t ask for God to give me trust without borders, but he knew I would need it then to prepare me for the years to come. He knew that I would need his supernatural strength and faith to say no to college, and yes to IGNITE. Now that I look back, the trial was so worth it. In that time, my faith became my own. I had to decide if God was real and if he honestly loved me with an everlasting, always and forever love. Though I couldn’t see him at times, I could feel him. I felt his hand intertwined in mine, I saw his light ever before me, and I heard his tender voice whispering in my ear, “We are going to make it.” God is real and God is good! Isaiah 30:19-21 says, “He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” When you turn to the right or to the left.” How beautiful. My God is before me and beside me. Though circumstance may rock me, it will not move me when my feet are anchored deep in the everlasting rock. I may not know what God is doing, but I do know who he is, and in that my soul finds rest and overwhelming JOY. 

Application: I want the Lord to be ever before me, every single day. This week, as soon as I wake up, I will pray that Jesus will guide me and that his light will illuminate my way. Psalm 73:23-26: “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Hello from Guatemala

To whoever is taking the time out of their busy day to read this blog, thank you! Thank you so much for your act of kindness and for connecting with me from thousands of miles away. I have been living in Guatemala for a month now, and already God has been blowing my mind and revealing himself to me in ways that I never imagined were possible. Just the other day, I read Hosea 14:5-7, and was reminded of the reason I named this blog, “A Fierce Flourishing.” The passage says, “I will be like the dew to Israel; He shall blossom like the lily; He shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; His shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine…” After reading those verses, God faithfully reminded me of a lesson he had taught me just three months prior to leaving the U.S. The season was finally transitioning from summer into fall. The grass lost it’s evergreen color, the trees shed their coats of crinkly, crackly leaves, and gloomy skies filled the air. It seemed as though the earth was mourning the loss of summer. But as nature sat wallowing, I arose rejoicing. I took heart and found comfort in a new transition of life. Though the leaves were dying, nature was hiding, and the earth was crying, the transition was simply beautiful. I marveled and sat in awe of the death and revival of God’s creation, each season sparking within my soul a different reason to sing, give thanks, and find joy. Joyfully, I realized that God is in the midst of every season. He sings through the birds, dances through the waves, proves his faithfulness in the rainbows, and shines brightly through the rays of light. His goodness is sprinkled about every season, every time of year. And isn’t this how God is through my season of life, through all of my transitions and adventures? He is there, always there. Right now, I am in the biggest season of change that I have ever experienced and I didn’t know it was coming until I was already in the middle of it. I remember reading the phrase: “Bloom where you are planted,” and it spoke volumes to my heart. That is the way I am supposed to live: willing and obedient to the purposes of God’s will, and wholly reliant upon the strength of Jesus. Not worrying about where he is taking me, what he is doing, and why he is pruning me of my branches and leaves, but simply blooming wherever he decides to plant me. It sounds so much easier than it actually is. It requires submission and it causes discomfort, but surely a tree must be stripped of all of it’s leaves in order to grow new ones, and the flowers must fade away in order to spring back up with vibrancy and life. I too must lose my leaves every once in a while. Pieces of who I am, must be cut away so that the glory of who God is, can shine through me. When I am stripped down to nothing, it reminds me that God is my everything. in order for beauty to spring forth and a heavenly blooming to take place, I must be deeply rooted in Jesus, firmly planted in his grace. God makes beautiful things out of the dust, and he causes a fruitless people to abound in his name, fiercely flourishing. Isn’t that just beautiful? I have never and will never know such great love. No matter what season you are in, may you bloom, blossom, and flourish on this earth. May people see that the Light of the World is shining upon you and transforming your heart from the inside out. May we welcome new seasons with open arms. May joy fill our hearts to overflow, at the thought of Jesus stooping down low and taking away pieces of us, to be fulfilled with the fullness of Him. God is faithful in and out of every season, may his love wash over you today. 

Stay Awake

Hebrews 6:12
“So that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit promises.”

In order to gain the full message of verse twelve, I went back and read verse eleven, which says: “We desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end.” Until the end. That phrase cuts deep, and it has been appearing in my life every week since we have been here. Have hope always, until the very end of the race. Is it even possible to be that consistent? As Christians, hope is to be our motivation. It moves us and pushes us to keep running full force, until we see our King face to face and hear the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” Wow. What a glorious day that will be to physically embrace my creator and Savior. It gives me chills just thinking about it! Sadly, for many believers, including myself, that hope of eternity and perfect communion with God is just not enough. Why? And whose fault is it? The answer: yours, mine, and ours. We allow our trials, hurts, pains, and past failures to weigh us down until we are flat on our face, head in the sand, incapable of looking up. We enter into this drowsy state of Christianity; barely alive, just getting by, and certainly not thriving. I was just listening to a song that explains my thoughts perfectly. One of the verses says, “somehow I have fallen in love with this middle ground at the cost of my soul.” That middle ground is apathy, complacency, and it will lead to our spiritual death if we do not fight back. Do not close your eyes to the hope that is gained in the love and knowledge of Christ. Look upwards and onwards that you might be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit promises.” Hold onto hope, keep your eyes open, and walk in faith with all endurance. This is key. This is the life we are called to live. This is the vibrant, radiant, and fully alive life that God blesses. He blesses us when we hold on, and do not forget, he goes continually before you and is always beside you, holding you by your right hand. How amazing is that? Philippians 3:13 sums it up perfectly. “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” Do not give up. Keep chasing, keep pursuing, keep awake. 

Application: I am easily discouraged and I am also a thinker. Often times I dwell on what is getting me down and it keeps my focus off of Jesus. Instead of looking to Him, I look to myself or the help of others. Instead of being consumed with God, I become consumed with me, and I lose heart. Today, I will keep track of all of the times I get discouraged and immediately, I will pray that God will resolve the situation and refocus my gaze on Him. 

Strengthened to Run

Colossians 1:10
“May you be strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, for all endurance and patience with J O Y.”

In it of myself, I cannot do good. I am weak and I do not have the ability to run my race with all endurance and with joy. An athlete spends years perfecting their skills, strengthening their bodies, and training in order to win, and as much as believers need to train and run to win, we also have a gracious and loving father who calls us to come and be filled now. 2 Timothy 2:2 says, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” That phrase, “be strengthened,” literally means to draw our strength from. God knows that we cannot live life on our own. We cannot empower ourselves. We will run out of strength, we will give up, we will lose the joy of our salvation. The weakness of our flesh is inescapable, but the strength of Jesus and his overflowing grace is overcoming, empowering, and captivating. Be strengthened according to HIS might, according to the riches of HIS grace. Hosea 11:3 says, “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim how to walk, I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I had healed them.” One of my biggest downfalls is not recognizing God’s strength and grace in my life. I am independent and strong willed. I think that I have made myself whole and I forget that it was Him who took me out of the pit and cleansed my heart. It is God who breathes life into my bones. It is God who picks me up when I fall. It is God who carries me when I am too exhausted to even try and carry myself. May we not forget our Savior and all that he does, all that he is doing, and all that he will do. The thought of God, the creator of the universe, stooping down low to hold my hand, to look into my eyes, to be near to me and pour out grace upon grace upon me, leaves me in absolute awe and wonder. Jesus wants me. He wants a wretched woman like me to be his beloved daughter. That fact gives me life and joy, pure joy. I do not deserve anything, but God has given me everything. So I will run, and I will run to win. And winning does not mean finishing first and with the fewest mistakes. Winning is allowing God to take my ugly, wayward ways and make them beautiful. It is surrendering my pride and weaknesses, for the beautiful exchange of his power and his grace. It is not about how often you fall, but how you get up when you fall. Thank you Jesus for loving me and making me STRONG. 

Application: I often forget all that God has done for me and instead, I become caught up in my present struggles. Tonight, I will read through my old journal and thank God for all that he has done for me. 

True Life

Luke 21:19
“By your endurance you will G A I N your lives.”

If I were to lose my life, if I were to be hated by all, or if I were to be put into prison for the sake of knowing Christ, would it be worth it? In all honesty, my flesh says no. Denying Christ and living a quiet, comfortable, Christian life seems much easier. Preserving my earthly treasures and titles seems like a far greater gain than death. But within my soul is that gentle voice telling me, “No Charis. You have got it all wrong!” And I do. Life, as perceived by many, consists of 75 years filled with education, a steady job, marriage, a family before you are thirty, and a nice home paid off before your kids go to college. But all is fleeting, all is temporal, and nothing on this earth can satisfy the deepest desires of our souls; but God. In him I have found that which is truly life. My heart is never more filled with joy and subdued with peace, than when it rests in the hands of my father. When I am on my knees in prayer, when I am worshipping my creator, when I am encouraged and built up by the body of Christ, and when I am going through trials that require me to take refuge in Christ alone—those are the times that I feel the most A L I V E. Those are the moments that I live for; those are the moments that I was created for. Philippians 1:18, 20-21 says it perfectly: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice…it is my eager expectation and hope, that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or death. For to me to live is Christ and to die is G A I N.” This is life. This is the abundant life Jesus came to give us. Great gain is accomplished when we die to self. If we can kill our fleshly desires and flee from our complacent lives, then by God’s grace and strength, we will endure through every battle, until the very end. We cannot be shaken if our feet are planted on the unmovable word of God. If we experience great pain, or great earthly loss, we need not dismay. God goes before us and he stands beside us and he promises that not a hair on our head will perish. The losses we experience on the earth are worth nothing in comparison to the abundance we gain in the knowledge of Christ. 

Application: I will set aside time today to write out the many reasons I am grateful to know Jesus, and I will commit to memory Philippians 1:18, 20-21 by writing it out on a notecard and hanging it up in my room. 

Walking Worthy

Collosians 1:9
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

The first thing I noticed in this passage was the heart of Paul. He was a faithful friend and a lover of all people. It didn’t matter who they were or what they had done, he loved them through and through. He loved them so much that he would give them the truth at any opportunity. Jesus flowed through him, because he was a channel of Christ’s love, a willing vessel. Paul had a genuine desire to see sinners turn to Jesus and to see believers pursue Him more passionately. He cared little about himself, and deeply about the salvation of the souls that surrounded him. God had given him so much grace and mercy when he converted to Christianity, and it clearly filled his heart to overflow in grace for others. Do I love the flock this much? Do I love people to the point of falling on my knees? Am I devoted to speaking truth at any cost? Am I devoted in prayer for others? I love his heart. I love the way God shined and continues to shine through Paul to impact the world. His message to the church of Collosia was just as powerful. He tells them, “we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” Doing what God asks us to do when we don’t know the why or the how, is terrifying. I am a planner. I like to schedule events and know the tasks I need to accomplish, ahead of time. However, if I knew the fullness of God’s plans for me, I do not believe that I would be willing or obedient to go as he has called. If I would have known a year ago when I was applying to colleges that God wanted me to do IGNITE, I think I would have fought his will. The comfort of college and gaining a degree sounds much more inviting. If I knew where God was going to take me after IGNITE, I probably would have been more hesitant to come here, too. The problem is that humans live life in constant fear. I live my life in constant fear of the future and the endless possibilities and “what if’s”. I submit to doubt because I listen to earthly wisdom instead of God’s voice. The Lord says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises…” (2 Peter 1:3-4a). Godly wisdom and understanding is rooted in hope and faith that God will truly be all that he says he is. It is believing and holding fast to the faithfulness of his character and the precious and very great promises that he has granted to us. He is just, faithful, and good to his children. Are we so in awe of God that we would do anything and give up everything to fall deeper in love with him? When we can get to that point, we will know the fulness of God’s will for us, and his presence will satisfy the deepest parts of our soul. 

Application: I want to be devoted in prayer for others just like Paul. I will pray for two people back home, and two people on our team every night this week. I will pray this blessing over them, that they might be filled with the fulness of God’s will.