Thursday, October 27, 2011

salvation costs nothing, discipleship will cost you everything

As a little girl, I told Jesus I wanted a relationship with Him and wanted to give Him my life.
I understood, to the extent a five year old could, that Jesus loved me, I was (am) a sinner in desperate need of someone to save me from myself. That Jesus came to earth, died a terrible death that He did nothing to deserve and rose again to save me from my penalty- Hell, and to give me a purpose and relationship with Him in this life, and Heaven in the next.
But, honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. No idea the weight of that moment. The reality that Holy Spirit had just come to live inside me. Changed everything about who I was. The commitment that He made to me, all His promises suddenly applied to me. Promises He made that He would never break. Promises that He'd never leave me. to complete His good work in my life. Promises of desire for me, desire for my affection and blessings, if I just trust and follow His will. Promises of eternal life, a place He was preparing that I would see when this life passes away.
He gave the ultimate sacrafice of dying for me two thousand years ago,
and yet Jesus commits Himself to me daily.
daily.
The God of this universe condescends to my level. my world. Commits Himself to a sinful, often rebellious, petty, human being and steps into my life. Isn't that crazy!?
But just like any relationship- any good, healthy, exciting, fruitful relationship, it must not just be one sided. If its going to work, there must be commitment on the other side as well. We don't get to just take salvation and peace out, doing whatever we want till we die, expecting Jesus to make good on all his promises, while having done nothing to hold up our end of the relationship.
So often we treat God like a pinata instead. We expect him to give us anything we want, beat him with prayer and requests for our lives and if we hit him enough, He's required to spill out blessings on us, fulfill requests, follow our every whim, while not doing anything ourselves.

I've been thinking about this subject a lot the last few weeks. I've given my life to Christ but what does that look like. Am i really doing it? Living totally for Jesus? Because, really, I do know what it looks like. I know what the Bible says about what my life should be. seen it lived out in the godly people that are around me. But can i say, in absolute honesty, confidence, that I've walked in a manner worthy of my calling (Ephesians 4)? as a bondservant of Christ? I was so convicted by a sermon i listened to the other day. This is a paragraph from the transcript. It hit me in a way no other analogy has talking about giving your life to the Lord
"Do not quit. Do not quit.
Otherwise, you’re like a woman who is all about a wedding, but not about a marriage. You’re like a woman who really enjoys her wedding day, and then once it’s completed, tells her groom, “We’re getting a divorce today.” The groom’s bewildered. “What do you mean?” “Well, I look good in white, I really enjoy getting my photo taken, I have an affinity for cake, and it was nice to see everyone, but fifty years seems like a long time.” And see, the metaphor of the Bible continually is that we’re like a bride and Jesus is like our groom, and some of us just want to have a wedding, but we don’t want to have a marriage. Getting married is easy. Fifty years is hard. Right? You raised your hand for Jesus at youth camp, you came forward, got baptized, you prayed the sinner’s prayer. Great, you got married. Now it’s fifty years of working it out."


dang, thats crazy! I dont want to give up. I dont want to quit!
I'm so thankful for the grace of God in my failures.
He's faithful when im faithless (2 Timothy 2:13)

There are a million ways this can be applied specifically to my life. but basically i think it comes down to being committed to discipleship.
Being a disciple (follower, bonservant) of Christ
and discipling (serving, loving) people.

But this commitment is not to be taken lightly.
i thought Mark Driscoll put it so well. he said,
"salvation costs you nothing, but discipleship will cost you everything. salvation occurs in a moment, discipleship takes a lifetime. salvation is something God does for you, discipleship is something you do with God."

This discipleship thing, it will cost you your life. everything. its hard and frustrating. full of suffering and trials but also so full of joy, excitement and purpose. A life spent with the God that loves you and who has given us a mission to do while we're here.
If God is who He says He is, done what He says He's done, loves us the way He says He does. i believe He is worth giving my life completely to and for.

First, we must give our lives to Christ. Become followers of Him.
Jesus bought us to make us free. the utimate servant giving the ultimate sacrafice. we must recognize He served us!
Philippians 2:5-8 says
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.


It's for this reason Paul over and over in the New Testament calls himself a bondservant of Christ.
For years bondservant has been one of my favorite words. It's crazy! It's the perfect picture of what the life of a christians is supposed to look like.
Back in Biblical times, slaves were required to be released after 7 years and at the time of release if a servant had been treated well, had formed a relationship with the master, loved his master, he could choose to stay and serve the kind master for the rest of his life. When the decision had been made the master would take the now bondservant over to the door and pierce his ear with an aul. From the moment someone would walk into the master's house they know who was there out of love. out of devotion.
The greek word for bondservant is  δούλος (doulos) it means the lowest scale of servitude but highest devotion of one bound by love; one who gives himself wholly to anothers will

Man, i want that said of my life. bondservant. I've been set free but I chose to stay and serve my loving, perfect master for the rest of my life, with all i have. Not because I have to but because I'm so in love with Jesus for what He's done in my life.

The second part of this life of a disciple is giving your life to people. To take part in the mission of telling people about what Jesus has done and then to build them up in the faith. encouraging, loving, serving those around you.

This world daily tells us what success it, what greatness should look like, but Jesus had the real answer. The true definition of greatness. In Mark 10:35-45 the disciples are arguing over who will be greatest in the kingdom of God. and this blows me away. Jesus doesn't rebuke them! Never says their desire for greatest is wrong. Instead, He redirects it to what godly greatness looks like. It's countercultural not only back then but today!
"But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
He tells them the standard and sets the example for them to follow.
This is true greatness!
Laying our lives down for one another. For people who need to the hear the gospel and our fellow believers
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9 that "though i am free from all i have made myself a servant to all, that i might win more of them." Why?? To win people to Christ!
He goes on to describe how he became like a Jew, a Greek, he became like the weak, why "that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel..."
convicting much?? i want that said of my life.
But the thing is, is that it's not easy. making yourself a slave... to all? that requires inconvenience, laying aside preferences, giving up time, money, comfort. it takes humility.
giving up your very life to serve the lost. Sounds really difficult, huh?
But when our eyes are on the goal, on reality. That people need to hear about Jesus. That people are dying and according to the Bible, will spend eternity in Hell if they don't place their faith in Him. seems worth it. seems necessary.
Makes us really understand 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 when paul says that its Christ's love that compels us. Makes us feel as Peter did in Acts 4 when he tells the council that "we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard"
That reading about all that the disciples went through to spread the gospel, the mockery, the torture, beatings, and eventual murders of these men and possibly our fate if we truly give ourselves to this mission was/is a small price to pay for the souls of men.

Not only should we serve the lost but also serving and loving those standing with us in the cause of Christ. For the unity of the body. Paul says in Romans 12:9-13 "love one another with brotherly affection, outdo one another in showing honor... contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality."
I love that. Outdo one another in showing honor. I just picture all of us literally tripping over each other to serve the other. How awesome!
Think, if thats how we really sought to serve, love, build up, encourage in our bible studies, in our churches. i feel like things would radically change. and in the cycle that it is how much greater our testimony of God's love to the lost by our crazy love for each other.

This is a commitment. a life given to the Lord. so difficult but so worth it.
When it gets hard, don't turn around and quit.
Do NOT quit!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

4 Ways to Pray the Gospel Over Your Life

Great article i found on the Resurgence site. Exactly what i was talking about in my last blog!! take a look and get pumped.
the second is by the same guy and continuing on the same subject
this guy's a baller


http://theresurgence.com/2011/10/11/4-ways-to-pray-the-gospel-over-your-life

http://theresurgence.com/2011/10/01/how-the-gospel-does-what-religion-cannot

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

then in steps Jesus...

this has been the craziest summer of my life.
seriously. i've never had a time like this. it seems like most days for last several months, i get up super early and all day go from one thing, just to get done and have to be on to the next, hope to be in bed by one, maybe two, and then it begins again. work has gone into this crazy transitional time where i'm working more than i have before while i try to look for another employee. church stuff is in full swing with Bible studies, league sports, discipleship, life group, hangout/outreach, conferences. and then just life things, the normal stuff you know- laundry, grocery shopping, working out, family stuff, weddings, baby showers, ect. it seems like my time is just consumed.

and by no means am i complaining! i am CRAZY blessed. and all of those things are SO good.
enjoyable. necessary. life.
God has crazy answered my desire, i actually never really prayed for. that i could clean (because i love it!) during the day!! i'm so excited and thankful for this opportunity that He literally dropped into my lap.
I LOVE my church/Bible study. daily God reminds me that DTC is exactly where He wants me. where He wants to use and bless me. God is moving!! even the other day i met a guy who had decided to give his life to Christ just days before and is hungry for the word and wisdom and giving up his former life. dang! and the crazy thing is, is that God has blessed our church in that we don't see that once every few months or year like some churches. but DAILY we see people making these decisions.
yet, it never gets old.
never becomes cliche.
it rocks to my very core every time, the grace and love of Christ changing someone's life.

but recently i've felt the disconnect.
the only word that i can think to use is overwhelming
im overwhelmed
not necessarily good or bad
just a lot, you know?

instead of letting my mind dwell on Christ, i've become distracted.
yes distracted is exactly how i feel.
i've let life's woes and situations consume my thoughts. carry me away.
stress me out. capture my hope. numb my mind.
like i said the activities/work/stuff are all good things but i've put them in the wrong spot. in my calendar and in my thoughts.

and i've figured out what i do when i'm overwhelmed.
i make a schedule! fill every waking minute for everything and everyone else, so i make sure i can get everything done.
and then think about it all day because i'm afraid that i cant.
then i realize what i've done. bam! overwhelmedness (not a word) sets in.
then i pop in a dvd while i'm doing chores to take my mind off my anxiety.
then i turn on a chilled out- don't make me think, kind of music so i don't have to.
then i start listening to a book because i cant block it out with music.
then by this time i've filled my mind so up with things that don't push me to Christ, i forget about Him along with everything else.
i stop praying because I can handle it. i just have to be organized.
i stop reading because i filled my schedule so up that i literally don't have time to read.
then Satan comes. i've given him the perfect circumstance. the foundation. the foot in the door.
lies. lies. lies.
Gods not helping you. you've got this
you clearly don't have this. and God doesn't want to help. don't talk to Him.
He's hurt you. abandoned you.
ok go to Him. oh look, He hasn't answered you again. told you.

so this has been my last month or so.
until this last week, the Spirit revealed a crazy truth to me.
if you would have asked this i would have said of course. i know. amen!
but the weight of it actually set in.
PTL

ready?
i (we) need the gospel daily. 


like every day.
i need to hear what Jesus did for me and how He has changed me. how He has changed others.

i always say 'man, that person or this person needs to hear about Jesus.' which is entirely true. but I need to hear about Jesus today. I need someone to tell me, I need to read about it, listen to a song about it, meditate on the story of Jesus coming and dying for my sin. how His Spirit has changed everything about me.

daang thats crazy. i've been a Christian since i was five and i still need to hear it. i was a pastor's kid. i went to christian school, sunday school from the time i could walk, youth group, college ministry. my entire life is Bible "overload', heard it a million and one times.

but there's something about it.
it still brings me to tears. sends goosebumps down my arms. puts a fire in my chest. i have to praise Jesus. i have to get up and tell someone who doesn't know. i have to sing. i have to grab my Bible and go somewhere and just be alone just to meditate.

i've been so blessed this past few months getting to hear several of my friends stories. actually be involved and watch from the start of my friends stories. the last couple days i've practically lived on http://www.iamsecond.com/ . i just leave it up on a tab, i sit and just click through each story and listen to how Christ has brought people from death to life. im so blessed! God is doing crrraaaazy things! and every time it seems to ignite something inside me.

in the midst of the crazy, hearing the gospel, quieting my heart and listening to the truth of Gods word. all my worries, all my distractions melt away. because at the revelation of my purpose nothing else compares. this is my life. this is what it's about. its like a defibrillator. shocks my heart back to life. gets the blood flowing again, when the cares of the world seems to have paralyzed me.

i'm so thankful for the work of Christ in my life. where He's brought me.

but, i know that not everyone reading this believes what i do.
not everyone has made the decision to follow Christ like i have, maybe you have a religion you follow, maybe you don't believe there's a God at all. maybe you have beef with God and its been awhile. or maybe you've never heard this before. and by this i mean the TRUE gospel. not that you go to church so you and God are cool, not that you're family is Christian so you are too, not that you have to be good enough to go to heaven, not that Jesus is one way and people get to pick the way they like, not that if you follow the however many rules of your belief system then you're good.
im talking about the TRUE gospel.
so here it is. this is what i believe and truly changed my life. everything about me. brings me a joy that i honestly cant explain. gives me a purpose. a hope. this is the only way.

the God that created this universe. the One who has always been and will always be. the perfect, holy. the only One. He created this world you see around you and decided create mankind, in perfect relationship with one another. in perfect relationship with Him. no sin.
can you imagine no sin?
but the first man and woman sinned, passing sin down to all of us. now what?
God looked around and saw that no one else could save man from their sin. so He did
from the very name of God- Elohim (implies the trinity), in Genesis 1:1, Genesis 3, God promised to send a Savior. the answer. the only perfect one who could take the sin of this world upon Him and deal with it.
why do we need a Savior? because like Adam we've disobeyed, we don't want to be like God, we want to be Him. we're prideful, we lust, we hate, we're violent. look around this world (deception, jealousy, anger, murder, rape, torture)... look inside yourself. when you really see yourself for who you are/ who i am. we are nothing like God. we do/are everything opposite of who God is-His character, which is holy, not only by nature, but by choice. God is the standard. and God is perfect. we cant ever be perfect.

God saw that. knew we could never save ourselves and instead of giving us EXACTLY what we deserve in letting us die and go to hell. He decided to take on a responsibility, not His, and fix it.
in the midst of our sin and wickedness, our depravity..

in steps Jesus...
He came humbly, into poverty, lived a perfect life. working, teaching, healing, raising men from the dead. claimed to be God. who HE was. who He is.
arrested and accused of blasphemy. God Himself. they didnt believe He was who He said He was. the only perfect man to live. God is human form. come to deliver us from ourselves.
He was put on trial.
beaten till you couldnt recognize Him
spit on
whipped till the flesh was literally hanging off of Him
forced to carry His own cross up to Golgotha.
then nailed to it.
dying in one of the worst ways in all of history, crucifixion.
3 days later though, the tomb was found empty
not just empty though! Jesus actually went to his disciples and hundreds of others who testified of His resurrection

why?
to save you and me!

but Jesus didnt come to just save you from hell. to rescue you from the punishment you and i deserve,
He came to give you life!
to have a relationship with the God of this universe. an intimate, close relationship with Him.
to walk with you through this life and show you what true love, peace, joy really are. He wants you because He loves you, He created you and then bought you back from the darkness.

I dont know what you think about this.
if you love Jesus, given you're life to Him, let this shock your heart today. let it put a fire under you. and praise Jesus because, dang, He loves you so much

but if you don't really know. if you haven't given your life to Christ. i encourage you really look at your life! and look at what He did for you, ask questions, read, figure this out because this is a pretty important thing. who Jesus is? where you will spend eternity? what your purpose in this life is?

i am second.

peace, love and Lecrae

http://www.iamsecond.com/seconds/lecrae/
>>Lecrae's testimony video

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

the battle is on but the war is over

over the last several weeks i feel like ive been in a constant battle.
ok, actually since i became a Christian ive been in this battle and probably will be, in varying intensities, until i meet Jesus face to face (cant wait!)
at first i couldnt really put my finger on it. what or who it was between. what to call it. i kind of wrote about it before but its one of those things where God gives you something to think about that grows and deepens and different aspects are revealed as the weeks go by. but even now trying to put it into words...so tough! its mostly at these time i cling to Romans 8:26, one of my personal favs!
"the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

but then it came to me! what the battle inside me looks exactly like
(im about to nerd out! get ready.)
ok so remember in the Lord of the Rings, the epic scene when Gollum has that intense argument...with himself. he goes all split personality on us and has not just a conversation, but actually starts arguing with himself. he's struggling between two thought processes going on inside him. about who his master is and who he is. its somewhat sad but also kind of hilarious. 
that is exactly how i feel!!

the battle?
my heart vs. my Spirit/mind
not just in one thing but many! all the time
i feel the weight, the pull of the world and its ideology. idolatry. pride. lust for more, success. its desire to  play God. the "my life is my own, i know how it should go" mentality.
even as im running after the Lord, these small (sometimes big) lies creep in. Satan is so active!! (1 Peter 5:8-  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.) he just preys on my sinful heart and 
my heart is telling me i know whats best. this or that is whats right. this is my identity. that i know whats fair and unfair. that theres a point where the cost of following Christ should max out. that God shouldnt ask more than a comfortable/happy life.


the verse that keeps running through my mind is Jeremiah 17:9, it says 
The heart is deceitful above all things,
   and desperately sick;
   who can understand it?
the closer i come to Christ, the more i seek Him, learn about Him and fall in love with Him-the more i realize how wicked my heart truly is. 
how selfish and worldly. 
how proud and foolish.
but thats what the world tells us to follow right?
my heart wants what i want. my will. 

why do i have to wait for what seems like everything?! why do people continually choose to walk away from You and fall on their face when i try to warn them? why do i know of several Godly people who have died from cancer recently? why?

and right when those thought take hold my Spirit and intellect of who God is and what Hes doing kicks in (thank you Jesus for giving me Your wise discerning Spirit) im finding that so often what my heart so desperately wants is not the same as what i know intellectually of what Gods word says and what His Holy Spirit is speaking to me.

God is in control! He's sovereign! His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8), He makes paths straight (Proverbs3:6), "A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way? "(Proverbs 20:24), He's creator. (Genesis 1-3), He made a plan to save His creation (Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 3:14-15), He readied the world for the Savior to come (OT), He left heaven and came as a helpless baby (Luke 2), to live among the wicked and vile- His creation, He was beaten and murdered for that creation (gospels) then resurrected! and gave us His very Spirit (Acts) to help us get through this life and live it for Him, and guess what!? is coming again!! (Revelation)

and so on and so on. the Spirit/truth starts fighting satan and his lies, my flesh. He brings verse after verse of who God is and how He loves and is deserving of the utmost glory that we can bring Him. and if that God is who He says He is. the God of the Bible.
i want ONLY what He wants.
this burning desire inside me starts to grow and grow for what God wants. His will. Him. just Him.

over the last few months i've really seen Gods grace and sanctification in my life in this area. im maturing! oh so far from where i want to be with Him but maturing. my prayers have totally changed! not that i don't pray specifically. i do! Jesus and i talk about everything! but my prayers recently have been Lord i want You. i want what You want. Your will. heres my desire.  (because He tells us to ask Him for things!! and to keep asking. and keep asking and that He delights in the details of our life and wants to give us our desires -Psalm 37) heres what i ask of you. but i want Your will and whats good for me, even trial and hardship. this has even applied to my prayers for others. in whatever situation, i want God to be glorified and His will. for people to come to Jesus if that means whatever it takes, if they need jobs or healing or some circumstance in their life- i ask God for them and follow with- but if this is good for them. this hardship, to grow close to Jesus and bring people to Christ give them grace and strength and carry them through it.

so often i forget all this awesome truth. i forget to wake up, put the gloves on and get ready to fight.
so the battle's on to trust Christ and run hard! 1 Peter 1:8- You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.
i refuse to live comfortable. complacent.
I refuse to live for myself and my plan.
I refuse to waste my life.
the call of Christ is radical living.
Bring it!

peace, love and P90X








Monday, August 15, 2011

its life on life

currently hanging out at Mars. drinking a delicious iced coffee and trying to think what the heck to write on this thing!
i've been asking the Lord to show me what to blog about, not only to tell friends and family whats going on in my life and encourage them but also to clearly tell who Jesus is, what He did, how this is relevant to life now without being one of those Christians.
you know, one of the tv Christians. the quiet ones who always look awkward and uncomfortable, wears clothes at least a decade or two out of fashion, with a ponytail,  has no fun, grew up in homeschool, and generally made fun of by everyone.
or the crazy ones. the ones who hate everyone, yell and scream, shove rules and out of context verses in the face of anyone near enough to listen, think their better and judge everyone in the world while living a life of hypocrisy.
i want people to see what the life of someone truly running after Christ looks life. here. now.

im really having a hard time picking out one thing that the Holy Spirit has been putting on my heart and teaching me. i love those times where God is just focusing on one thing. a thought that grows and grows. reading books and history. studying the greek. understanding the context of not only that day but what God is doing in the people on earth now in this area, subject or doctrine. it kind of evolves into this awesome two or three months of learning.
but thats totally not me right now! Jesus apparently is deciding to teach me small amounts about like a hundred things at once. (my OCD organization is not loving this! ha!) and then when i get overwhelmed He just whispers, keep following me. keep trusting me. keep going. 
the shear magnitude of who God is.
what He's done.
how He is literally the author of life and holds everything together through eternity.
personally knows each of us.
what?! seriously. each and every person alive past, present and future. has a plan for each. knows their joys, hurts. deepest longings.
wants each heart. not only to give life and happiness but what He needs to do to break them in certain areas of sin and rebellion. all to bring life in the end
He convicts and humbles and speaks to each heart, His desire for us.
the shear magnitude of that God. THE God. literally overwhelms me.

so this isnt put together. isnt my OCD laundry list standard:) but i guess its what Gods doing in me. not organized. just me and Jesus. one day at a time. one lesson after the next.

im such an Isrealite. seriously. I read Exodus and i not only can i not believe but i'm actually disgusted at how the Israelites see God do seriously crazy stuff . bringing a man to lead them, the plagues, practically feeling the presence of the Lord pass their door! bringing them out of Egypt, giving them food, visibly leading the way through the desert and time and time again the refuse trust and obey God. that when He says something to just believe it!
its ridiculous
its appalling
its also exactly who i am.

I see the faithfulness of the creator of the world, look at Him and say to His face- i don't believe You. i don't trust You know and have planned best for my life. i don't think you listen when i pray when
You say that You do. that You're in control.
what?
and then i look back at the thousands of ways God has been faithful. come through for me. blessed me.
im such an Israelite. thankfully i see Gods faithfulness and patience with them in Exodus. and in my life.
He's so patient with me. so loving.

one of the ways He's been crazy showing me this is in the people He's placed in my life.
little did i know what i was getting into when Meg Rude walked through the doors of La James. the day i agreed to go Alive. the day i joined WCCC. Drake Ministry. switched to the DTC. seriously.
God has hit me with an "i love you and look at the amazing people i put in your life" baseball bat the past month.
i LOVE the people in my bible study group. my church as well, my friends from high school, the salon and old churches. obviously my family/extended family
but my bible study group is. awesome. (i cant even think of a word great enough!)
im gunna gush for a bit.
gush.

God knew what He was doing putting it on my heart to move over to Dtc. He knows me so well :)
between our two groups theres gotta be like 50 of us.
it has seemed like since i moved over in April, something in the last month and a half- everything has just clicked.
we hang out ALL the time. like 5 days a week. and thats not like one-on-one hang outs that happen the other days. but as a group. we love sports (haha ahh yea sand vball!), we love sharing meals, we love card games, we move one another, we help refugee families, we bbq, we help one another reach the others friends, on and on. but what blows my mind sometimes is how we can all sit for hours and hours and do nothing but talk. we meet people, get to know each other, talk about how Jesus is crazy in our lives, how He changed us, our plans to grow and love and live life together for Christ. hours!
people who, from the outside looking in, really dont have a lot in common.
we all talk different, dress different, have different interests and personalities. but this draws us together. not just to the same place but in our lives. connected. sometimes inseparable!
its crazy ive been asked why its so hard for me to miss things, events, services with these people.
that i see them all the time! why does it matter?
and i try to explain it and i just cant. if they arent in it they dont get it.
what is it?! i can only come up with Jesus. thats it. He has created this insane connection between all of us. and our numbers are growing daily!
and i would argue that besides marriage, this is where the gospel is the most clearly displayed.
this is the context in which Christ tells us to live life. tells us.
where we learn to/how to love people, show them Christ, learn things like patience, faithfulness, grace, mercy, where we experience conviction, rebuke, encouragement, where we are able to sacrificially give possessions, time and life.
where else can you do it?
if you're by yourself you cant actively work on or do those things
and i would say are not living Biblically! God wants to bless you through fellowship.
is it hard, frustrating, crazy, heartbreaking, totally sucks sometimes? yep. but this world is all those things. its awesome that if we have to go through life, putting up with some of the trials in fellowship is well worth it.

another thing ive been learning about the "body of Christ" is how we all have our part. we are all at different stages of life. all at different stages of our walk with Christ. all with different spiritual gifts.
all working toward one goal. Christ. knowing Him and bringing people to Him. holy buckets!
that is so incredibly beautiful.
think about it! its like a puzzle. we all fit perfectly even though we look so different to create the picture of Christ.
beautiful.
so recently i've been praying that the Holy Spirit would really show me what my gifts are (also the short sermon series by Mark Driscoll in 1 Corinthians on Spiritual Gifts is ca-razy good!) and how to use them. also what He's given me a love for. i want to know exactly what He's given me and use it for His glory and message. ha i've gone back and forth with all these things. i think i've figured out a lot of the ones i have but knowing where to use them most has proven tough. sometimes i think about what it looks like to Him that He's given me these things and they aren't being used.
He keeps bringing things up and i need to continue to ask how to go about some of them.
i love meeting people and sharing the gospel. will i continue to talk to only the people i know or sit at home doing my own thing?
 i love music, i love to sing but will i be content just singing to myself in the car?
i love in depth studies of the word of God but if im just gaining knowledge and have no faith and use it to speak to people and build up the body and love... im pretty sure that im nothing. maybe something like a clanging cymbal? 1 Cor. 13
dang.
God, You are so good. so faithful
Friends, you are so wonderful. im so blessed

peace, love and sand volleyball



Monday, July 18, 2011

Does God want us to be happy?

that was a question that a friend of mine asked me the other night.
heavy right?

and as she asked this question i realized i've been really struggling with this thought without even knowing it. without thinking of it in those terms.
what does God have for my life? where does He want me? will i get married? will i go overseas? will i be successful?
i have this plan for my life, and honestly i think its a pretty good one. i want to serve Christ, grow in intimacy and in tune with the Spirit, i want to be in fellowship, share the gospel, see lives changed, have a family, do mission work, adopt orphan children from different countries. run hard until the wonderful day my Father decides to take me or Christ comes back
pretty awesome, godly, biblical plan right?
i think so.

but what if my plan isn't what God wants for me? what if all the things i think will make me happy, God wants something different? does that make him mean? will the plan he has not make me happy?
what if instead of wedded bliss, i'm single for the rest of my life?
what if instead of perfect health, i get cancer or some strange illness the doctors cant figure out that ravages my life and my body for years?
what if instead of getting to go overseas and be a missionary, on the front line of battling for people's souls, trusting the Lord moment by moment, for some reason God wants me to continue to clean for a living or be in a decent paying job in an office doing something i don't want to do for years to come, hoping for a raise, a 401k and nice co-workers?

its taken quite some time but God has slowly changed my first thought from being-no God please! my plan is just so good! why arent you jumping on board?? to starting to see the world and Gods plan with my life in the bigger picture.

maybe God has women in my life to build into for years that i wouldn't have met or have the time to really spend with if i was married.
maybe my story would bring people to Christ, give others hope and spiritually strengthen me, my family and friends, through a sickness
maybe if i continue to clean for a living, years down the road i'll see someone understand the love of Christ and instead of spend an eternity in Hell, know and love Jesus till they enter Heaven.

do i believe God wants us to be happy?
yes i really do.
psalm 37:23 says He delights in the details of my life
john 16:24 says ask things in the name of Jesus and your joy will be full
romans 8:28 says He works all things for good for those who love Him
and so on. even Gods commands always come with promises. do this... why?.. so that you will have good come from it, so you wont ruin your life, so you wont have to deal with the worldly consequences.

but i also think we must define what God thinks happiness is
God is all about Himself. (thanks Sey for teaching me this!) His glory and His people
all about His kingdom. and He wants us to join Him in His plan for our world

What is happiness/true satisfaction?
its Christ. 
if we don't fully understand that, then we will be constantly disappointed when things don't go the way we plan because our hope and satisfaction comes from that thing, person, circumstance

Paul understood what true joy was. the joy of Christ. in Philippians 4 Paul said to rejoice and that he learned to be content in any situation.
how??
i truly believe it was because he was so in tune with the Spirit of God, knew exactly who he was in Christ, so in love with His Savior for what He did to save him from his sin and give him new life.
and because of that was so focused on His kingdom by telling people who were living a purposeless life headed toward destruction, about Christ.
and only then, no matter what God asked of him, no matter where God led him, no matter what God gave and took away. Paul was totally content


one passage i think about a lot and is one of the greatest promises in the Bible i think is in Psalm 34 & 84
all of 34 is awesome but especially 1-10 
"Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
   for those who fear him have no lack!
 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
   but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing."

 and 84:11
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
   the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
   from those who walk uprightly.


Do we trust whats true? that God loves us with this crazy kind of love that He knows and wants whats best for us. that He, alone, is the one who actually knows what the best is. and that we as little human beings have the audacity to think we understand what is good for our lives.
think about it, how many times have we made decision and decision thinking we totally know what we're doing, to have it blow up in our faces.
God promises that He will withhold no good thing from us, so that means if we don't have something we can trust that God knows its not good for us

God loves us so much
i wrote an "about me" for my profiles you should check out! a lot of my favorite things God thinks about us. but heres a few
Chosen, Beloved, Holy... Colossians 3:12
Reconciled... Romans 5:10 
Loved... John 3:16, John 15:13 (the entire Bible)
Sanctified... 1 Corinthians 1:2
 oh man theres so many... maybe my next blog will just be some of how God sees us.. especially with the greek. its soo intense, so overwhelming. really studying these things has changed my life dramatically. drilling it so much into my head that when the lies satan puts in my head start growing, i cant help but remember all these things. then i ask the Spirit to reveal to me whats true and He speaks directly to me, reminding me of verses i haven't read in years, telling me all the things that He loves about me, all the plans He has for me.

in front of a holy, all powerful, loving, gracious, just, creator, redeemer, God we stand totally loved, pure and blameless, covered in the blood of Christ, Gods creation- the person He made exactly with the color of eyes, personality, type of laugh, little quarks that He wanted. His child. but not only that He bought us back!! He saw us and sent His son to come to earth, live among depravity, away from Heaven to die a horrible death to buy us back because He WANTED us.

thats who we are. but we must believe it!
Do we believe the Bible?  if we then put our trust in that and continue to grow in the knowledge and love and spiritual union with Him we will become "content in any and every circumstace" and not just content but totally happy, overjoyed with the plan that is His and not ours.

this in essence is the gospel, do we see ourselves how God sees us, see what he did, see his promises, then we come to the crossroads.
are we going to totally give our lives over to Christ and his plan despite it being not what we had planned
or are we going to turn our backs on Him and walk our own road, out of Spirit and leading a half life bc Christ promised to bring us life and life abundant. to the full. and if we're not walking in that we can be assured that we wont have that full life
i dont know but i think im gunna go with the Creator of the world and lover of my soul. my best friend. Father. beloved.
that is the gospel.
and in the words of Tedashii and Pro, We need it daily!

peace, love & ice cream



Monday, July 11, 2011

my best friend, the Holy Spirit

its funny to me that the last time i used this blog was almost exactly two years ago.
and thinking back to who i was two years ago, i feel like i was a totally different person.
Jesus has led me not only to a completely different place in my life- with work, where i live, where i've traveled, where i serve in ministry, but more importantly in my relationship with Him- how i view Him, what i believe theologically, doctrinally and how much i love Him.
i've prayed for years i would grow in love, wisdom, knowledge, and humility. and by the grace of God i truly believe i have (even though i have SO far to go).

in the last two years i've moved twice, i quit doing hair and started managing part of my dad's cleaning business. i've gotten to see the Lord bring women into my life that i love dearly and play a part in helping them start and continue following Christ. i've watched one of my best friend's life literally, before my eyes, be transformed by the love of Jesus and his followers from a hard hearted man to one filled with the Spirit and now get to serve Him in the same bible study. my heart was once again captured by foreign missions when i went to the Dominican Republic this spring, and watched God do crazy things while we shared the gospel to hundreds, maybe thousands of people there, so much so i continue to wonder if the Holy Spirit will one day call me overseas. and most recently i moved from the church ive attended for 5 years, over to their church plant in downtown Des Moines to continue serving God there.

He is so good to me and i love where He has brought me but even more than that im itching to know where He will take me.
But like i said, as different as my life looks on the outside, i believe the Holy Spirit has changed me inside even more.
I couldn't even begin explaining it all but i do know what He's taught me recently, in the last year and especially the last few months, has probably changed who i am as a Christian more than anything ive ever experienced (which makes me so excited to see what He has for me in the years to come!) :)

my entire life, even though i was a PK, (pastor's kids unite!) i sincerely made the beliefs i was taught my own. i wasn't just there because my parents made me or because i attended a Christian school. i actually believed it, read it and loved Jesus. but this last year has been so different. i started digging. i know i love Jesus. but i had questions. "why does the bible say such and such?.... there are so many theological issues, why am i on this side? who said this is what Jesus meant? why do i live or think this way when the Bible actually says something different than what ive always thought?
I didn't ask these things to disprove the Bible because i believe it but i wanted to know WHY i did, said, believed the things i did.
craziness!
the Bible actually says a lot differently than what i've thought for a long time.
things like Heaven, hell, spiritual gifts, who God actually is, marriage, prayer, women, and so much more. i've dug through different doctrines/view points/religions like Charismatic, Sensationalism, Calvinism, Arminian, Mormonism, Satanism, ect.

i've learned a ton and God has given me a lot of understanding through it. its been so great but the most recent and huge, as Mark Driscoll puts it "big E on the eye chart," that i had been missing in my walk as a lover of Christ. the Holy Spirit.
i've never heard a lot of about the Holy Spirit. God is my Father. Jesus loves me and saved me and He died for me but we never really talked about the Holy Spirit.
Francis Chan wrote a GREAT book called Forgotten God, talking about how we have really left the Holy Spirit out of the Christian equation.
Why is that?! i think its because we've seen the results of talking about the Spirit crazy abused so instead we have left Him out completely. which i think is equally dangerous!
in the last few months i've learned a lot about who the Holy Spirit is and what He does.

ive been thinking a lot about John 16:5-7. all my life, i've thought, if Jesus were only here things would be better. to have Him right next to me. but this verse He says no, its to your advantage for me to leave because i am sending you the Spirit. its better!
He's with us! inside us and thats better than having Jesus. its still tough for me to grasp but the Holy Spirit is crazy!!! He's alive!! He's wants to do crazy things in and through us, convicts, calls/opens hearts( 1 Corinthians 12:3), encourages (Acts 9:31), brings understanding (John 14:17), gives power (Acts 1:8), gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14), peace, heals, goes out, fills up (like all of Acts, Romans 5:5), comforts, loves, intercedes, sends out/counsels (Acts 13:4), speaks to us/gives words/discernment (Acts 13:8-10, Acts 16:6, Acts 20:23, 1 Corinthians 2:4) appoints (Acts 20:28), breaks through sin (Romans 8:5), prays for us (Romans 8:26), tells us how to live (Romans 14:17), sanctifies (Romans 15:16), seals us (2 Corinthians 1:22)... i could go on and on.

i always wondered if there's more, i love the Lord, but theres got to be more! more than even just going to church, reading your bible, living life. He promised life abundant john 10:10. i get so burned out sometimes. i'm told to pray, told to read, told to do ministry, told to do this, do this, do this. and i do and im still so unsatisfied.
why??
because im doing it on my own.
without the Holy Spirit.
without talking to Him about it and actually listening, letting Him lead me. doing all those thing out of love for Christ, through the Holy Spirit. in Matthew 22:36-39 God says to love Him with everything. yes love people to but love God. thats the most important. If we try to do the Christian life without the Holy Spirit. we burn out. and all those things are good but they arent the point, the goal of the Christian life.
I thought Rory Whitney said it perfectly last year at Faithwalkers- as Christians we have found out how to do church without God, without the Spirit.
would we notice if God took His Spirit out of our churches? or would we just keep doing the "godly" things we've been doing because we honestly cant see the difference? do we live by the Spirit?
i dont want to do that anymore. live the "godly" life, doing things because i'm "supposed to". it takes all of the grace out of it. why did Christ die then if we think we can do it on our own by the things we do? 

So thats what i've been doing, giving it over to God and His Spirit He put inside me and letting Him do the work, growing in understanding of Him and love for Him and seeking the Spirit and letting Him convict me and speak truth to me, going to Him just to talk and literally He's become my best friend. always there for me and in relationship with me. and out of that He puts in me the love of doing ministry, praying, sharing the gospel, loving people and how i can keep going. its not me. its Him. thats Biblical. He wants to do crazy things!! He can and will if we let Him. and i've found life with way more joy, way more meaning and a best friend i'm fully dependent on.
peace, love and my best friend the Holy Spirit,
steph