Friday, April 22, 2016

A Life Made Worthy

Proverbs 18:2
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

This verse takes me back to one of our first few weeks in Guatemala. Everyone was still getting to know each other, and it was taking me some time to get used to being around so many people all of the time, but we were beginning to become a family. Then, we were given a class called, ‘team commitment’. We had all of the time we needed to come up with a team verse, a team code, and applications that followed our mandate, and they locked us in a room until we were done. That day will forever be engraved in my mind. At first, the task sounded pretty simple, but boy was I wrong! It was honestly one of our worst days as a team, but it was the day that turned everything around, and it became IGNITE Class 10’s stepping stone to true unity. Fill a room with twenty one people, twenty one voices, twenty one different interpretations of the task at hand, and you are bound to discover discord, and multiple conflicting opinions. By God’s grace, however, we came together and formed something that truly transformed our team. Our team commitment goes as follows: 
“Complete my joy, by being likeminded, having the same love, being in one accord, of the same mind” (Philippians 2:2). We are committed to one mind, one love, one spirit, one purpose, in Christ. Applications: Daily devotions, praying for one team member each day, praying with someone when asked, abide by Matthew 18. 
This commitment did not come about easily, or without tension. It was a struggle to agree, and I came to realize that unity cannot be forced. You can’t force twenty one strangers to love each other, and live peaceably with one another, but the love of Christ that binds us all together, can. It wasn’t until all twenty one of us recognized this fact, that we are all one at the foot of the cross, and no one person’s opinion was greater than another’s, did we finally come up with our standard, or rather, God’s standard, of living. It was by God’s grace alone that he brought twenty one complete strangers, from twenty one different walks of life, with twenty one different pasts, to meet in one country, and begin to run this race of faith together, hand in hand. It was by God’s grace alone that a family was formed, hearts were transformed, and we all were able to see ourselves for who we truly are: broken, useless, pieces of clay, made precious, beautiful, and full of value, in the hands of our Maker, our Creator, our Abba Father. Not a single one of us is worthy to be serving the Lord. We are not worthy to teach, and love his children, but we are all called, and made worthy by the love of Jesus. Our worth does not come from who we are, or what we have done, but whose we are, and what He has done on our behalf. Our flesh had to, has to, and forever must die, that the power of Christ, the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead, might live and thrive within us. This year is not ours, it is His; it is not by our strength, but wholly through His. The very class that could have wrecked us all, became our greatest victory, and brought twenty one strangers into a bond that will never be broken, and for that, I am forever grateful. 
Jesus, as I am sitting on this airplane heading home, I can’t help but think of the past three months. All of the memories, all of the laughs, all of the tears, all of the joy, every kids club, every outreach, every night of prayer, we did together, as one body. Leaving them feels like a piece of my heart is being ripped out of my chest, but I believe that we shall all witness your goodness in the land of the living. If we are willing and obedient, we will see your faithfulness and goodness, poured out on our behalf. It is going to be so hard doing life without my brothers and sisters, but the work you are going to accomplish in and through us, far surpasses anything I can dream up, or imagine. Thank you Jesus, praise you God, for leading me to take a leap of faith, and join IGNITE. Thank you for every single person you brought into my life; strengthen them for the purpose you have planned for them. Make us brave, and draw us near. 

Application: During my ten days home, I will text all twenty one of my teammates, at least once, with a word of encouragement. I am going to miss them deeply, but God is going to use them mightily, and it is time for us to walk in the plans he has established.

Learning to be Taught

Proverbs 12:1
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”

I have never been one to love discipline, or enjoy correction. As a little girl, I was full of anger and I had a spunky, strong willed attitude. If my mom or dad asked if I wanted to be spanked, I said, “Go ahead.” I had no concept of respect, and no concept of a self controlled tongue. I was a spitfire, and my mom always said that for every word she spoke, I would give a thousand more. I never cared if I got in trouble, I just wanted to live the way I wanted to live, and act the way I wanted to act. I hated reproof, I hated correction, I hated knowing that I was in sin, and that I was wrong, and like this verse says, I was a fool. I really was the demon child that every parent prays against, but thankfully Christ intervened and set me free. As time went on, and I grew older, I began to realize how much I hated what I was doing. I didn’t enjoy throwing temper tantrums, I didn’t like being punished, I hated the way I felt, and I hated the way I was destroying my family. My mom did not deserve my fury, and my brothers and father, did not deserve such disrespect. I felt like a monster, and I so badly wanted to change. So what changed me? Romans 7:22-25, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” This verse led me to recognize that I really could be in control of the sin that was controlling me. It was my choice to relent against my mom and yell at my dad. But with the power of Christ living inside of me, I had the ability to gain the foothold in this fight, and allow the Lord to give me a renewed spirit. It was the the word of God washing over me, the character of Christ renewing my mind and transforming me to be a reflection of his image, that made me who I am today. Scripture was the key, because it reminded me of who I was supposed to be, and how I was supposed to become the person God created and called me to be. God traded my heart of stone for a heart of flesh, and took me from a girl who was unyielding and unteachable, to a woman who is yielded to the holy spirit, and willing to grow, learn, and be taught. It was quite the journey to get here, and I still struggle with being teachable, but God came rushing through my soul, and I am not who I once was.

Application: Tonight, I will sit down with Autumn, and ask her if there is anything in me that she believes I need to change, and I will bring what she says to the Lord, and ask God to yield me to his spirit. 

Come and Remain

Luke 2:46
“After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”

Jesus is amazing. He is fully God, perfect, blameless, spotless, the son and exact image of his father. Yet, he is fully man as well. Tempted just as we are, filled with emotions, and able to grow and learn, but never once did he sin or veer off the course. I wonder what life must have been like for Jesus. He of course knew all of the answers, and he had all the power of God within him, and yet he was able to grow. Jesus was able to learn and be taught, and he had the most coachable spirit of any man in all of history. This verse finds Jesus sitting in the temple courts, inquiring of the Rabbi’s, gaining knowledge, astounding them with the knowledge of the scriptures that he had, and he sat with them for three days straight. Jesus knew he was the perfect Son of God, the sacrifice for the sins of the world, but still, he hungered and longed to grow, and to discover more about his Father in Heaven. This story absolutely blows my mind! Jesus wanted to be taught? The Great Teacher, the all knowing, all powerful, Wonderful Counselor, brought himself so low, that he allowed men of the earth to teach him about his dad. This must have left Mary and Joseph dumbfounded too, because when they found Jesus in the temple, they asked him why he had done such a thing, and Jesus’ answer must have wrecked their hearts. He says, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (verse 49). Why wouldn’t Jesus be anywhere else, but at the feet of the Lord? The heartbeat of everything he did, was to glorify his father, so why would he not talk about God, any chance he could get. It is a beautiful picture of the heart my Savior had. All he wanted was more of his Abba Father. All he wanted was to become like him in all of his ways. So If Jesus needed to be trained, and if he needed to increase in wisdom and favor with God, as verse 52 says, how much more so do I? I want to have this same longing and desire for growth, that the Son of the Most High God had. But what is getting in the way? Me. I get in the way of my own relationship with the Lord; my flesh fights my spirit to the death, and usually the flesh wins out. I don’t want to change, and I don’t really need to change because I am not that bad of a person. But I am that bad of a person, I am the chief of sinners, and if I really think this way, then I really do need to change, desperately. Change may hurt, teaching may be painful, but it is not done in vain. I have never been able to keep a plant alive, but that is simply because I did not care enough to water it, and cut away the dead pieces. God cares enough. He loves me so much so, that he wants to spend an eternity with me, but I must allow him to step into my life, take a hold of my heart, and begin to prune away the dead, and unfruitful parts of my life. God, bring me to this place of humility, and help me to be willing to learn and grow.  A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere, may I come and remain. 

Application: There is an area in my life right now, that I am having a really hard time being teachable in, and I really have no idea what God is trying to teach me through this. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I will come to the Lord’s feet and lay it down every day, asking that he would enlighten the eyes of my heart, to understand his ways. 

God is Near

James 1:22-27
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

A dead faith is worse than no faith at all. I have this saying written on the top of James, and usually I gloss over it, not ever giving it a second thought, but today it has me thinking. I know so many Christians who say they believe in God, but don’t live by what His word teaches. They view God, not as a friend or a father, but as a judge, a creator, or a ruler somewhere far off in the sky. I understand why they feel this way. I grew up in the church and pretty much lived there three days a week, I attended a Christian school, and went to a Christian dance studio. My life has been surrounded and consumed with the Lord since I was a little girl. It was hard not to become numb to Him, because many times, I felt like God was being shoved down my throat. My life was built around mountain top experiences, and spiritual highs, lasting for a few weeks, and then seemingly disappearing out of thin air. There were two, week long camps every year, multiple worship nights, and study after study. The problem? I depended on those retreats, conferences, and nights of worship, to carry me throughout the whole year. I knew that God would break me during those times, and reveal himself to me in a powerful way, and I expected him to, but I believed that that was all I needed; just one “God experience” per year. But that one “experience” faded away in a matter of weeks, and it was not enough to get me through the year. My idea of a relationship with the Creator of the Universe was skewed. God is not something to be experienced, God is my friend, He is my father, my protector, my guide, my counselor in the morning and night, and the one being who knows me, even better than I know myself. He sent his son to die on the cross, so that I could have the opportunity and joy, of getting to know my Maker. Jesus died, because He longed to know me, love me, and be in communion with me, until we one day meet face to face. This is what so many people lack, and it is the same thing I lacked for years: communion. God is near, and James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” To live in communion with the Lord, is to be vulnerable with Him, and to pour your heart out before Him, allowing Him to see all of the hidden ways buried in the depths of our being. We have to let Him rip off our masks, so that we can finally see God for who God is, and us for who we are not. Only then does God’s word truly begin to cleanse us from the inside out, renewing our minds, and transforming our hearts. We begin to sincerely live out the word of God, being hearers and doers. The years of knowledge finally travels from your head, to your heart, to your hands, and your feet, and God becomes the heartbeat of everything you do. I don’t need mountaintop experiences to sustain me anymore, because God takes my breath away everyday. His grace is all around us, whether it be in the giggle of a child, the song of a bird, or the sounds of rain in the middle of the night. Be intentional. Look for glimpses of God all throughout the day, write them down, and remember. Remember why you believe in Him. Remember why you love Him, and you won’t be able to keep yourself from living and loving the way He so faithfully did on earth.

Application: This week, I will write down the glimpses of God that I see throughout the day, and mediate on the reason why I love the Lord so much. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Getting Over Myself

Proverbs 9:9
“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”

Wisdom. Wisdom has always been something I have desired. I see people like my mom, full of wisdom and discernment, and I long to have her character. She prays about all things, and even when we were little, she would take my brothers and I on prayer walks. I always wondered how she became so wise. She has more life experience than me, but more importantly, she has prayed for a teachable spirit. If I truly examine my life, I have not been the most teachable person. Since I was a child, I have been strong willed and stubborn. I grew up with a lot of pressure and expectation to be the ‘good’ girl, and I convinced myself that I was. Often times, I felt like I had arrived, although I knew I wasn’t perfect. I became so used to hearing what a good girl I was, that I became numb to my own sin, and inevitably, I resisted the teachable spirit God longs for me to have. Simply put, I don’t like to change, because I think I am right most of the time. It is a horrible character flaw to have, but God has definitely been working on me, here in Guatemala. I have had to learn to submit to authority, people who were complete strangers, and trust that God was speaking to and through them. At first, it was really hard for me to accept their criticism and obey their requests, but I had to remind myself of a prayer that I prayed to God, months before I came here. I asked the Lord to mold me into the image of his likeness, and to transform my heart so much so, that I would be unrecognizable when I came home. It was a sincere prayer, but in my ignorance, I rejected the fact that I would actually need to change. I didn’t realize how much my hard heart needed to break. I had no idea that I resisted against God’s hand so much, and I didn’t know that I struggled so much with submission and change. But now, I see that God is setting me free, and I am finally allowing him to remove these shackles from my wrists. It is not about me being right, or ‘good enough,’ it is about being willing and obedient to the shaping of God’s hands. He knows the areas that I need to grow in, and I do not. If I allow him to do with me whatever he wills, I will flourish, and bloom into the woman he desires me to become, and I will begin to radiate my maker. Father, I pray that you would give me a teachable spirit. Help me to get over myself and realize that I do not know what is best for me, and I am not always right. Trade my head knowledge for wisdom, and make me like you, Jesus. 

Application: I will spend time today and go on a prayer walk with the Lord, asking him to remove my pride, make me teachable, and fill my heart with wisdom and understanding.