Community, Influence, and Jesus

Hello again! It’s been a while since I posted anything. A couple weeks ago school started back and life got crazy a week before that. In those three weeks, I’ve experienced some of the sweetest joys along with multiple deep disappointments. In other words, it’s been a roller coaster ride. One of the main things that has kept me somewhat positive through it all has been my family and friends. Relationships play a huge role in our lives.

I’m a firm believer that you cannot really know someone until you spend a day with them doing everyday, ordinary stuff. In those moments, humanity, personality, and character peak through. It’s where facades are blown away and a foundation of trust is built.

I think this mindset is a major reason why God has me attending the church I am. Relationships are valuable to the church as a whole. I get to see the leadership in so many levels living in humble relationship with eachother and those they serve. I don’t think I can see how much they give up to build these relationships, nor do I think I can see all of the community and growth that comes from it. I do know God is getting a lot of glory from the investment that goes on, though.

There are many people I want to be like, and a whole lot of them attend my church. They’re not perfect people; they each have very different personalities and hobbies. (For example, the senior pastor who is at least 70 years old still goes on backpacking trip in places like Alaska… I can’t decide if I think he’s crazy or if I want to be like him when I’m his age. Haha.) Anyway, trying to live a life of perfection is not something I run into very often there. They are genuine. I don’t think you can be genuine while trying to hide all your flaws. I don’t think you can impact someone’s life in a big way without being genuine. I don’t think you can impact someone’s life without either introducing them to Jesus or helping them draw closer to Him.

When we walk in the light of community, it will reveil the places we are walking in sin. Those brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers in Christ should be pushing us toward Jesus always. It will hurt at times, but it’s for our good. That’s why we must be in close relationships, so we can speak into each other’s lives in meaningful ways. Pruning is good for plants and it’s good for us, too. We shouldn’t let that happen from just anyone. To have healthy boundaries in place, we should take critisism more seriously from people we know and trust. (This also applies to encouragement.)

This past summer, I was able to spend a week and a half with some family friends. They are Christians and are involved in their local church. We went to small group, Sunday service, and had some very interesting conversations about theology, denominations, etc. during that time. While all of that was well and good, it wouldn’t have meant as much if I wasn’t spending each day with them, going grocery shopping, interacting, solving problems, showing love to each other. Their lives reflected what they said they believed. That inspired me to live differently. Words are valuable and necessary, but never lose sight of what a life lived out in community is capable of. 

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Waiting for Good Things

Life is full of good things this summer. In many ways it is what I dreamed the summer would be. And yet, with each dreamed of activity on the horizon, I find a struggle waging within. There’s a little voice in the back of my head saying, “You’re getting too excited. Remember all the other times it didn’t work out? That’s going to happen once more and you’re going to be left devastated.¬†Again.” So what if I am let down again? What if the thing I hope for doesn’t happen in my timing, or at all? This can be a big thing or a little thing and I think we all deal with this tension to some degree or another at least once in our lives.

I am reading Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot right now. (Such an amazing book! If you want to dig deeper into this tension of not getting what you want when you want it or just have questions about what it looks like to have a God-honoring relationship, read this book!) Despite it being specifically about a love relationship, I think this philosophical concept still applies to desiring something good in the future:

“We may imagine what it would be like to share a given event and feel loss at having to experience it alone. But let us not forget– that loss is imagined, not real… What is, is actual– what might be simply is¬†not, and I must not therefore query God as though He robbed me– of things that are not. ” (Words of Jim Elliot written to Elisabeth during their long before-engaged season)

In that light, becoming bitter toward God for not giving a supposedly-good gift is ludicrous. On the one hand, was it really a good gift for us if God didn’t see fit to provide it for us? On the other hand, would we forfeit a right relationship with God because He wouldn’t be Santa Clause for us?

So can we eagerly anticipate a desired event or outcome, while still being fulfilled and happy in Christ? Can we have a desire in the back of our heart and wait for the right time to come for it to bloom? What if _______ doesn’t happen when we think it should? Can we be patient? Can we trust God to be good the the tension of the waiting?

I love this quote on waiting! It is,

“Steadfastness, that is holding on;

Patience that is holding back;

Expectancy, that is holding the face up;

Obedience, that is holding one’s self in readiness to go or do;

Listening, that is holding quiet and still as to hear.” (S.D. Gordon)

When we allow God to work in the waiting, we are drawn closer to Him in love; we are brought to a place of trusting Him more.

So wait bravely, friend.

67. Christians: When Should You Judge?

I’ve seen so much division among the Body of Christ recently. We have not been commanded to judge another Christians’ life decisions or denomination. Whether it’s judging another denomination for their beliefs, holding so tightly to beliefs that they won’t listen to and understand another way of thinking, or even being afraid of people who believe differently, it’s pretty sad that is has come to this. It’s not just the denominations that judge each other, though. Petty little fights break out among followers of Jesus who attend the same church. Somewhere along the way the culture around us which says, “your opinion matters” has been taken by us to mean, “your opinion matters more than anyone else’s and gives you the right to think lowly of those who disagree/ live differently than you do.” I’ve heard this mindset described as self-righteousness. This is not what Jesus taught.

Instead, Jesus taught humility. When people didn’t agree with Him, He didn’t get into a cut throat argument or gossip about it with His disciples later that evening. When someone didn’t want to sacrifice to follow Jesus, He let them make their own choice.

As for the denominations, I don’t think we can say any of them are “the right one.” I grew up in an Independent Baptist-style church, and now attend a community church that leans a tad more toward the Pentecostal faith. But see, the important thing is they both taught me about Jesus and how He came to die so I could have the option of eternal life with Him. Having friends of many denominations has challenged and stretched my faith over the years; watching them live out their faith in such varied ways has helped me grow in my relationship with God. One denomination may certainly be better for a particular person than another one would be, but you cannot say one is bad altogether if they proclaim the Gospel.

First of all family, as the children of God, we are family. Also, if we claim this, we should be known by our love. Judgement has to do with fear and fear has no place in love.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:18-21)

In Matthew 7 Jesus tells us that to the extent that we judge others we will be judged. How’s that for putting us in our rightful, humble place?

Now, Paul did clarify that sin is a big deal and that we actually should judge a fellow believer for walking in it. He wrote the Corinthians to tell them “not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler- not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the Church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)

This judging should be done among brothers and sisters you are relatively close to and know fairly well. It is done based on what the Bible calls sin, not based on something that doesn’t meet our own code of conduct. Instead of the “avoid the person” judgement we often see today, the judgement we are called to is a deliberate action/ inaction. One that should only be taken after much prayer and strong verification of the sin. I have heard it be recommended that you confront the person about it. Confronting them would be a good verification and a chance to see if they are willing to turn from their sin. The main difference between Biblical judgement and self-righteous judgement is where your heart is in the midst of it. Love should be the driving force behind this action of judgement to a fellow believer and the goal should be to encourage them to draw close to Jesus once more.

Genuinely get to know people, and love them. If they are a child of God, trust that He has His hand on their life. God leads each of us on different paths and to different denominations because we are unique people with our own unique personality, story, experiences, and ways that God wants to use us. The only time we are to judge is in the case of sin, and even then, it is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. After all, we are known by our love.

60. Changing Life Seasons

The start of college marked the beginning of a new season in life for me. I’m starting to see that life really is made up of seasons as we grow in our relationship with God. (I make that specification because, in my experience, we can easily get stuck when not seeking Jesus.) Whether it’s emotions, habits, living situation, friends, schooling, serving, a job, or health, they will change. Some seasons are harder, while others are easier. Some feel hopeless, others feel limitless. Each one teaches us something about God and brings us one step closer to who He made us to be, though.

My last season of life lasted about a year, and was characterized by “healing.” It was often lonely, but God brought healing to me in soo many ways. I’m still amazed at how much healing occurred.

This season is one of learning to pour out and yet have balance. (At least that’s what I understand of it so far.) I love this lesson because it involves people and learning to grow closer to them! But it’s hard because I’m still healing (dealing with sickness and negative thought patterns) and am not good at keeping balance in life.

Along with the season concept comes the comforting reminder that God isn’t finished yet. I can, and will, royally mess up in this learning process called life. But it’s not the end! Only when I see Jesus’ face will I be “perfect.”

So I encourage you wherever you are, to be in this season and know there are different and better things coming. As that popular quote says, “The best is yet to come.”

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

A time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather some together;

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to seek, and a time to lose;

A time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to tear, and a time to sew;

A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate;

A time for war, and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

58. Emotion Recognized: Prayer

One week ago, I knew what the topic of this post would be. What I didn’t know was that God was going to give me some up to date experience on the topic. Basically, this past week was bad. For about a year now I’ve been in a season of healing- from Lyme Disease, mold sickness, anxiety, and unbelief in a good God. There have been times in this season when life was straight up miserable and hopeless, and after feeling okay for a while, I got a taste of it again this past week.

My response has changed, though. Getting out of the hole is not something I’m capable of on my own. In this most recent drop, after a little while in the pits, I started laying out exactly how I felt to God. I told Him exactly what I hated about the situation and what I wanted to see changed. I begged Him to bring the calm back into my being. And today I sit typing in the calm. There’s still a battle ahead, as college classes start next week, but I am still praying.

Through this season I’ve learned that God loves us so much that He cares about our feelings and experiences. There’s something special about connecting with God in the midst of them, whether they’re bad or good. And you can just be with God and pour out your heart in the moments when you don’t know what to say.

“Likewise 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.” – Romans 8:26

When you pour out your heart in prayer, it opens the gates for God to work. On one hand it will be obvious when God answers because it means so much. On the other, your very view of whatever it may be changes. Either way we get to see a tangible picture of the victory Jesus bought at the cross.

57. The Catalyst: Prayer

Prayer. It means many different things to many people. For the American culture, prayer is mostly a stress-reliever , pray to some higher being who may or may not be there. You find so much more power in prayer when you pray according to promises and who God wants His people to be, though.

Last week, I wrote on how God is capable of doing anything. But, as I’ve been learning, a foundation of prayer usually comes before God moves. He can certainly move of His own will, but in much of life our prayers of faith allow God to work in and around us.

While there are multiple tricks to praying effectively so that God moves, there’s one in particular I’d like to share. ‘War Room’ introduced the idea of praying the Bible to me. In the movie, the main character begins writing out certain verses to pray over herself and her family. It inspired me. I asked God to show me the verses He wanted me to pray over myself and others. Some of them made no sense at the time and I even tried to ignore them, searching for a different verse instead. Looking back, though, I can see how praying each and every verse prepared me and my family for what was to come.

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Praying scripture funnels our prayers toward God’s will, heart, and promises. When we simply pray our emotions and thoughts, we miss out. There is a melding together of God’s purpose and our concerns while praying scripture. The verse becomes a guide for the prayer. If you think it sounds boring, I dare you to try it.

Just a few examples:

“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:14

God, help me to run to You when I am thirsty- when I desire more. Help me not to go to empty wells for the life and pleasure I desire.

“He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.” -2 Kings 18:5

God, I want to trust You. Build in me a heart that trusts You and Your leading in any situation. Let others see that quiet trust and praise You.

“Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” -1 Corinthians 7:17

Grow contentment in me to be where You have placed me. Let me value who You made me to be, and not go running after something else.

Prayer is one of the most powerful tools we hold against the enemy and for letting loose God’s power, especially when that prayer is guided by the Word of God.

49. A Salt Lamp Analogy

I recently became the owner of a Himalayan salt lamp. They are very popular right now, but that’s not the reason one now sits on my night stand. Many claim there are health benefits from the heated blocks of salt. I don’t know if I believe them, but I’ll take my chances.

The thing I’ve come to like most about the salt lamp is its magical glow. it’s surprisingly soothing.

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My salt lamp!

As I was contemplating the salt lamp and how it’s glow could relate spiritually, a bunch of things popped into my head.

Jesus is the light of the world and he told his followers to let their lights shine before men. But I wouldn’t compare Christians to a light bulb; a salt lamp is more like it. Why? There are multiple characteristics found in my rough-chunck-of-salt lamp that can’t be found in an ordinary, mainstream light bulb.

1. The salt lamp is imperfect. There are different shades of pink and white, lines, and even black spots. (To be quite honest, I thought it was kinda ugly when it first came out of the box.) Christians have flaws and each have unique personalities, struggles, and experiences; they’re compared to cracked jars of clay- and that’s a good thing!

2. The light is subtle. It’s not bright, pure white, and far reaching; rather the light put off is mild, comforting, and close to the source. During a sunny day you barely notice it but at night the light draws your eye. Christians must step into the dark places to let their light really shine. The painful, impossible, heartbreaking places are where the light of Jesus is most noticeable. In those dark places, the light is shown in a comforting way that attracts; not like a blinding headlight.

3. The light is diffused. All around the rock of salt, light goes out. Sure, some places are thicker and darker than others, not allowing as much through, but insy bits of light still can be seen. The hope Jesus gave and the en-dwelling of the Holy Spirit shine through every part of a Christians life. Some parts haven’t either gone through the refining fire, or been yielded yet, so they don’t allow the light through as easily. Even still, there is love and hope trying to come out everywhere.

The Holy Spirit is the light within. Our part is not to be perfect, but only to let Him shine.