Thursday, December 29, 2011

Love is an Arrow

Did you know that life on earth is a line segment? I mean, I hate to break out the high school math back on ya, but life has a starting point, a steady constant time speed, and an ending point.  Sometimes it may seem like life is going faster than it is at other times, but then we digress into relativity and I lose grasp of this catchy little visual.  A line segment is classified by it's finite characteristics. 

Love on the other hand is like a never ending arrow.  The question is, where is that arrow pointing?  This holiday season has got me thinking a lot about love and Christmas and this countries culture.  This Christmas I got fortunate enough to finally land a job at Target after a very long job search that lasted well over a year.  Unfortunately it was only seasonal.  While working there on the days leading up to Christmas, I was quite disturbed at a Christmas culture that I guess I had chosen to ignore.  Mothers would come in looking for presents for their kids.  They would unravel lists I thought I would only see on Santa movie specials.  Very specific lists I should add.  And if they felt one kid was getting more presents than another, it was crucial to give the other kid more.  I thought Christmas was supposed to be about love! Love among friends and family and most importantly about God, a God that was born a man more than 2000 years ago because he loved us so much. 

The problem with the love I witnessed with the all too common Christmas culture in America is that it is also a line segment.  It goes from one person to another and ends there.  Love, true love that is, has no ending.  A gift of true love is a never-ending arrow straight upward that involves both people.  It should make both the gift giver look upward, and the gift receiver look upward.  Last time I checked, a video game, or a dinosaur, or a brand new tv, has never pointed me upward toward God.  In fact, they usually do the opposite.  In most instances, they waste time, they tempt, and they cut off relationships.  Don't get me wrong, presents are nice and fun and fun to give.  However, most of the time the reactions elicited by Christmas are jealousy, guilt, pride, solitude, laziness, all of which are missing the point of the CHRISTmas meaning. 

Love is not finite, it is most definitely infinite.  You can never reach a limit on love.  That is most definitely exampled by God who has a limitless reach to His love for us.  During times of this life where there seems to be no direction, or times where life seems to be flying by too fast, times where you are bored out of your mind, or others where you are too busy to do anything but work and sleep, the way to get off the segment (figuratively and literally) is to love.  For by loving others and pointing your arrow to God you are in fact making your life line segment an arrow as well.  The great thing about a segment and an arrow is that, when added, they will always make an arrow. 

Christmas day has already come and gone, but starting this new year off, make a resolution to love others at every chance, with every conversation! Let others come to know the God of love through letting God love through you.  There is no more important calling.  Love God! Love Others! Boom roasted.

Happy New Years

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Love is accepting

I've thought a lot about what makes a person quiet, outgoing, shy, rambunctious especially in my own life.  I am beginning to notice a trend.  Lately, on tv, there has been a few shows on regarding bullying in schools.  Kids would shut down, even to the point of no hope, because they were teased, abused, and generally unaccepted.  That is a terrible realization because there is so much hope and love in just the simple act of acceptance, and yet these kids didn't have it.  

Middle school is an interesting time in life.  From personal experience and from counseling kids at camp, or now at church, it is all about acceptance and popularity.  I used to, and still want to go back and counsel kids down in Oregon at one of the coolest camps I have ever seen.  The camps are 4th-6th, middle school, and high school, and each one is completely different.  4th-6th is by far the easiest.  They are at that stage in life where when you become friends with someone, its not overly based on first conversations or popularity, its based on playing out on the playground together and just bonding.  They don't feel too pressured, they just love fun.   In high school, generally everyone is more chill and just wants to hang out.  They already know where they belong and just love to hang out with their friends.  But middle school, oh deary.  For probably the first time, they are at a new school, in a new situation, having to prove themselves in a desperate attempt to fit in and be accepted.  Their energy levels are still off the chart but instead of using them all for fun, they are using them to play an intricate social game where not everyone wins. 

When I was in middle school, or specifically 6th grade I was generally not accepted.  I mean, the reasons were obvious.  Instead of playing foursquare, which i dibble-dabbled in occasionally, I would sit outside the library and read the Bible.  Strange kid.  Of course, I was still 5'2" and wearing glasses.  It wasn't until about 8th grade, by now 6'0", contacts, school record hurdling, etc. that I was beginning to be accepted (hate to say how superficial it all is).  It wasn't until sophomore year that I had found where I belonged with my group of friends who enjoyed the activities I did.  All that to say, looking back on my life, there are times when I am quiet, where I feel unaccepted, and there are times where I am incredibly energetic and outgoing because I am accepted.  And I wonder how many people are that same way, if not all of us.  We are looking to be accepted and until we are, we have no confidence in who we are, or how to act.

It makes me wonder how many times, I myself could have accepted someone else to ease them out of their quietness.  Everyone wants to be accepted.  It's why we all do what we do, sports, acting, writing, etc.  We want to express ourselves in hopes that others will accept us.  Love is all about acceptance and belonging.  Story after story in the Bible, Jesus would walk up to an unaccepted person, and invite them to find their belonging in Him.  The blind, the lepers, the crippled, the uncouth, the tax collectors, the "sinners".   He would accept the opposite of what is generally accepted today.  Can you imagine a school with Jesus as a student?  Going around from lunch table to lunch table talking to the incredibly smart, the socially unaccepted, the kids who can't afford nice clothes, etc.  That would be a completely different school then what I experienced.  It would probably flip the social "caste" on it's head. 

We are told to love in the Bible; to love God, and to love our neighbors.  And yet where is the love?  I want to encourage everyone reading this, including me (because I am reading this too) to take an extra effort to love today, tomorrow, the rest of the week, FOREVER.  To really just take the time and accept someone you haven't accepted yet.  Invite them to something, hang out with them, accept them.  You never know if that's a person's first time being accepted or not. 

Badger Mountain Sunset

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Love is a puzzle

Pardon the picture, but it's college football Saturday so I have to root for my Ducks and Wildcats. 

Do you ever have those times where it seems you take a side step out of life? As if God is giving you an insight into various other places in the world? Call me weird, but sometimes I take a step out of what I see with my own eyes and began to wonder what other peoples eyes are seeing. There is probably some guy sipping rich authentic Swiss hot cocoa on the slopes of Monaco overlooking the thousands of yachts down in the Mediterranean on a beautiful Sunday morning. Or some little child, standing next to his parents, looking out at the sun set across the Grand Canyon, for the first time seeing the vast magnificence and power of creation. Or a couple of friends dining out at lunch at a hectic Hong Kong restaurant, looking out the window at the thousands of people walking, biking, mo-peding, driving. And then you began to think of places that aren't so elegant. A child, waking up at sunrise, sitting in a mud puddled street, no parents to run back to, playing with a flat soccer ball someone had delivered months ago from the other side of the world, yet still with more joy and hope than most. A group of Christians in Nepal, sitting in the shadow of Mt. Everest, excommunicated from taking part in their local village, constantly living in a land of beauty but with death and persecution breathing down their neck. A college student, nestled among 30,000 thousand other students on a beautiful palm lined campus, yet still feeling alone, contemplating suicide, as they all just walk by, wondering where God is and why this supposed God of love doesn't show His love to him/her. 

Life can sometimes seem like a 10 billion piece jigsaw puzzle. You search and search for where your particular piece fits in, trying to match up colors with other pieces. When I do puzzles I always try and place matching pieces near each other, and then look for similar shaped locking components. It's easy with a 10 piece puzzle, still easy with a 100 piece, way harder with 1000, incredibly difficult with my biggest puzzle of 5000. Can you imagine trying a 10 billion piece puzzle? That would be my 5000 piece puzzle and multiplying it by 2 million! I look out at my city of 240,000 and begin to get overwhelmed sometimes when I think about what everyone is doing at every single instant. Some are at the river, some are at all different sorts of work, some hiking up the hills and around the parks, and even others sitting in class at school. And then expanding that to the entire state of 7 million, the country of 310 million, and to the world at 7 billion. And yet God looks at this daunting puzzle and one at a time places puzzles right where they belong, not messing up once. Its a quite amazing realization and puts me at awe of God. He has us all working together for His plan, as well as the trillions of plants and animals, the molecules in the air and water, etc. He holds it all together. Can you imagine that? As I sat on my bed last night pondering that, I'll be honest, I was quite fearful of the implications of that realization. That is HUGE! 

Sometimes, if you concentrate on the entire puzzle, you can become depressed and overwhelmed. You see all the pain and suffering, false hope and false security, and you wonder how you are going to help fix it. Take it easy, God has it all in His hands! He will use you wherever He puts you to match up with the puzzle pieces next to you. You don't have to solve the puzzle on your own, just ask the Lord what pieces next to you He wants you to love, talk to, battle the enemy with. 

Take this simple truth and let it awe you and comfort you.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Love is Jesus

 There seems to be a mentality creeping through the hinges of modern-day Christianity that places the impossibility of man's actions into an impossibility of God's actions.  This can be seen through miracles: because I haven't seen them, they must not exist; through prophecy and tongues or other gifts: because I may or may not have that certain gift, its a little sketchy that you do/don't; and through, what I want to talk most about, love: because I have certain things going on in my life limiting my perception of love, God must also have those limitations.  Now it doesn't quite come out that plainly (most of the time).  We went through 1 Corinthians 13 the other day at church, which btw's, is awesome.  That whole verse 4-8 section always gets me thinking and rethinking and re-rethinking life and how much we can't comprehend about God's love. 

"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek it's own; is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things; love never fails." NKJV 

Jesus is Agape, or ἀγάπη, or a love that seeks nothing in return, a love described in every usage of that verse.  He suffers long with us and is kind, despite everything we have done.  He does not envy for what's not His (mainly cause it is all His), instead, He is jealous for us (completely different usage and definition, and quite a great song, feel free to sing the rest). He does not parade Himself, puff Himself up.  He does not behave rudely or seek His own, as He died there on the cross for all of us to do His Fathers will instead of His own.  He took it all so that you and I might be considered totally righteous in Him.  He is not provoked, or literally, made sharp toward us and thinks no evil, keeping no list or record of our wrongs as they were completely paid for on that cross.  He doesn't rejoice when we do wrong, but He rejoices when we glory Him, the author of truth.   He bears all things with me, He believes in me, He hopes in me, He endures all things with me.  He has the entire picture of history laid before Him so when we are without hope, when we doubt, He is there seeing all eternity believing in us and hoping, or confidently expecting, us.  His love never fails. 

Sometimes that mentality of man I was talking about earlier creeps in and says, since man gets angry with me, since man is not patient with me, since man makes a list of wrongs toward me, rejoicing when I screw up and not rejoicing in the truth, we seem to think God somehow does the same thing.  I have seen many instances where God has been blamed for being angry at someone, or that He can't forgive you because of the list He has against you.  Let me tell you right now, the Lord loves you in every sense of this verse.  His view of us is entirely different than the world's view of us.  Do not make that dangerous connection that doubts God's love for us because man has not loved us. 

If you currently think God is angry at you, rejoicing in when you do wrong, writing a list of errors you make, go to this verse over and over.  Go to John 3, and Romans, and 1 John 4, etc.  Take that lie and pray it to God and pray for His truth to restore you.  That lie is not of God for God is love.  Never forget that!  "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us", that famous quote by Tozer, is so true.  Do we think of God as some angry tyrannical king who beats us when we do wrong, or do we view Him for as He truly is (which would take a lot more topics to discuss) written in the word and evidenced in creation.  I love to think about that verse sometimes and make sure my view of God is not off base, constantly getting into the word.  It's one of the only ways to contest lies and misconceptions.  Take a moment and really think about how you view God. . . make sure you know He is not angry at you.  Plaster truths like 2 Corinthians 5 which state that Jesus' death for us not only forgave us of our sins but reconciled us to him in His righteousness.  Read and re-read the gospels, constantly going back to His sacrifice for you. 

Jesus is the key.  Jesus died for you and for me so that we might have victory.  He overcame the world so that we might overcome the world and all of its lies and temptations.  Focus on Jesus, focus on His love, not on your boyfriends/girlfriends love, not on a bosses love, not on an enemies love, not even on a friends love.  Focus on Jesus' love only, for on it is the encapsulation of Agape.

God is love - 1 John 4:16

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Love is a Jump

I remember standing there at Smith River in Northern California, perched high above the water, trying to will myself to jump. It was the highest I had ever jumped before. I mean I had jumped from a puny, wimp rock at Applegate Lake in Southern Oregon, but this was the big time. My brother, the crazy, fear suppressing, thrill-seeking, man that he is, was urging me to jump, as he continually walked by me, jumped, walked back up, jumped, etc. It's a difficult task to stand there, 50ft, 70ft, 100ft off the water, looking down, unable to see through the water below, and urge yourself to jump. Even after watching someone else jump and knowing the water is safe, even after talking yourself into doing it, there is still a point where your leg muscles just won't cross over that threshold. Your mind relentlessly evaluates it more and more as time goes on. Sometimes you think you can will yourself over, other times you sit on the rock hoping time will pass faster and no one will notice you until you leave.

I heard this analogy at a conference I was at in Colorado Springs called Desperation Conference. It was by a speaker who belonged to the Bethel church in Redding, CA. Maybe you've never been rock jumping before and don't relate to the experience; maybe that doesn't even scare you. Maybe it's jumping out of an airplane, maybe it's boarding an airplane. Think of something where you get there, trying to will yourself to do it, but can't seem to cross that line of no return. Using the rock jumping, the speaker was saying there is a line right in front of your toes, that once you jump over, you can't return. He called that line Holiness, but I think you could put a number of words there, passion for God, desire to follow God, trust in God. Yes, holiness is the outcome of all of those, so really it can all go hand in hand.

You can stand on that rock and say that you love God. You can just stand there, acting like a Christian, working like a Christian, talking like a Christian. But there is a difference in standing on the rock and saying you love God, and jumping off the rock for Him. On the rock, you are safe, comfortable, where as the leap, it takes faith, trust, obedience. God is leading all of us to leap off that rock, to leave everything behind in obedience to follow Him. And when you jump, there isn't any going back. You can't love God and be unholy. jumping off that rock means giving everything to God, and that in essence is holiness. There is no midway point. You either jump and end up in the water, joyous, ready to do anything, or you are still on the rock wondering why life doesn't feel quite to it's potential.

Love is a jump. It's a hard jump. One that requires your whole life! It can be scary giving up control of your life. After you jump, (in the words of Hitch) "you just drop like a rock. . . wondering the whole way down . . . why the hell did I jump". But then you hit the water and you realize God's love for you, His path for you, are far better than anything you could have ever imagined. You realized He is working a far more intricate path than anything you could have experienced sitting on the rock, acting like you were in the water. Go all in, cross that line of no return


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Love is Getting Lost

What do we have to lose? There is a story in the Bible about a prominent man named Naaman who had leprosy during the times of Elisha. In order to be healed, he went to Elisha to ask for him to heal his leprosy. But Elisha sent his servant to the door to meet Naaman and told him to dip seven times in the Jordan River and then he would be healed of his leprosy. Naaman wasn’t a big fan of this because a) Elisha hadn’t even come to meet him and b) because, being from Syria, he thought the rivers were cleaner in his country than in Israel. He was adamantly opposed to the menial task of dipping in the muddy river because it went against how he thought it could have happened. But his servants in one of the simplest acts of wisdom I’ve heard lately, says in so many words, “What do you have to lose?” Upon hearing that, Naaman dipped seven times in the Jordan River and was healed.

What do you have to lose? I have been thinking about that rigorously lately. We are full of sin. We constantly fall short of the Glory of God. We are lepers. And yet when God tells us what we simply have to do, most of us turn away in rage. What do you have to lose? This can apply to the concept of salvation and believing on God but it can also be applied to, how I feel more convicted, the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit has got to be one of the most forgotten, most misunderstood, most judged, debated, avoided, or abused topics in the entire Bible. You look everywhere on the media and you see people on TV charismatically calling on the spirit for personal gain, for personal fame. Then you go to most churches and you find no sense of the Holy Spirit anywhere, and you might even find some that oppose it all together because things will get to complicated when you mix in the Holy Spirit. It creates a sense of fear around the topic and around the usages of the gifts of the Spirit because of uncertainty on what they are and how they work.

On this biking adventure trip that I am on, I have spent a large amount of time thinking about what I have to lose. What fears are holding me back from really grasping on to the Holy Spirit in my life? What barricades are keeping me from breaking through a room of complacency and safety into a vast arena where the only way to be victorious is to depend on the Holy Spirit? How would people view me, even on this trip, if I began to talk more about the Spirit, about Jesus? And I narrowed the answer down to one simple word: loneliness. If I start to change, maybe no one will want to talk to me and I will have to spend my time alone. If I become to weird, maybe I’ll never find a belonging with a group of people. And then what? . . . . What do you have to lose?

Love should not be hindered by legalism, by fear, by confusion, by avoidance of certain issues, by tradition, by pride, by anything. I’m learning that more and more as I visit various different churches and hear various life stories of people biking with me. It seems a lot of them love to “do”. And that’s awesome! But sometimes we can get lost in that. And as loving as it is to give someone a house, how much more to give someone an eternal house? How much more to grasp on to the Holy Spirit’s directions no matter what, trusting that He will always be there with you? What is holding me back, you back, us back from letting the Holy Spirit work through us? It’s time to stop getting lost in the doctrines and in the traditions and in the fear and just let the Holy Spirit do what it does best,

Let love be found!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Love is Urgent!

"What we do in life echoes in eternity" - Maximus

What if we really believed that? What if that really changed what you were doing right now? How would your life look? So often, myself included, I think we get in grooves, in habits and tracks of life that are hard to step out of. Complacency and Apathy take over as we surround less and less of our time with wheat that can burn rather than precious stones. Every Christian I know has a pretty good head knowledge that what they do in this life will echo in eternity, but it stops there. Our tendency all too often is to stop at forgiveness and not move on to be a victorious soldier through the Holy Spirit beating back the enemy and rescuing the captives. And the reason is our contentment with where our lives are. We are content with our daily job, we are content with doing monotonous school work all day, we are content with spending more time on facebook and twitter and other forms of technology, than out with people, we are more content with passing by strangers in timidity, than to engage them about the things that really matter. This movie quote needs to be taken from our mind to our heart (and then to our arms and legs). What we are doing in this life, echoes in eternity! The precious stones that make it through the fire determine the crowns we lay at Jesus' feet in Heaven, and ultimately affect the extent we experience eternity.

You've probably all seen it or heard about it by now, the trucks and rv's that explain the end of the world is coming. Now, as fun as it is to try and prove them wrong and make fun of them when May 22nd rolls around, it does get me thinking. What if God did return on May 21st? Are you living how you would want to live for Him right now? Even better, what if He returned in 5 hours? 5 minutes? Would you be doing something differently today? We can't know for sure when the day is He comes back but we are supposed to anticipate and live our lives as if it could happen at any instant. We so often find ourselves saying, "Oh it won't happen for a while, I can life in contentment for now. I'm sure after I get my life all planned, then He will come. It probably won't happen today so today I am just going to take a break from Jesus." We don't actually say that but we unconsciously think it as it lives it's way out in our daily lives.

We need to desperately think this over. The more we think about this, I'm convinced the more fulfilled our lives will be on earth and in heaven. God is looking to use people that are desperate and passionate about His causes. He's looking for people that will give up themselves to follow Him.

Going to a public graduation commencement the other day reminded me how much different the two views are. They were rewarding people who had huge 5 year plans. They were going to go work for major finance, law, and retail businesses. They were saying the goal of this life is to find love, to be happy, to dream to be at the top with your career. Those are terrible 5 year plans if you do them on your own! But that is what so many people aim to do with their lives. If God is leading you that way, then awesome you get to reach CEO's and White House attendants for His name, you get to have a an awesome wife, you get to be joyful! It's not something you attain on your own, but a gift given in life by the one who is wanting God to direct the strings of His life. It's best to plan for the future while living like this is the end of the world. Suddenly the urgency returns and we realize our self made 5 year plans don't mean anything and that the only 5 year plan is to lovingly serve our Savior and His children. It's a tremendous calling.

So as May 21st rolls around be thinking about the end of the world. What if it did happen that day, or today, or any day? Live your life as if it will. Listen to where, who, what, the Holy Spirit is calling you to. Just go out and love on people, go out and serve God's children. This isn't a time to argue pointless Biblical theologies, to judge others and place a facade on your own life that you have it all together, to live in complacency, wasting time. We don't have very much time to waste, God is calling us!

Love is urgently calling us!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Love is Evident

 ITS EASTER WEEKEND. . . .surprise.

This is the most powerful holiday of remembrance in the history of holidays of remembrance, for on this weekend we see the greatest showing of love, and the greatest showing of power this world has ever seen. We see a dramatic death that brings life to all that choose, and we see a resurrected life that puts to death all the powers of evil. In a matter of three days, all of humanity was forever changed.

Leading up to the death of Jesus, we see a few powerful examples of God's love and forgiveness, we see some selfish and sinful acts from those around him, friends and strangers, and we see areas in our own lives that we might be living like one of the disciples, or maybe on the flip side, an area where we might be in a place where we can take comfort in knowing that God went through what we did, to an even greater degree. Jesus was completely rejected! He was separated from His Father, He was beaten and tortured, spat upon, mocked, taken advantage of, attacked. But this was only from strangers, from soldiers, from those He didn't spend countless days with. AND YET, He was also betrayed, denied, and ignored by His CLOSEST friends and disciples. Maybe you have felt rejected, ignored, attacked, mocked, or any of the other traits. Don't feel alone, but know that God was there with you to even greater degree. Take it from Him when He spoke the most powerful words as he hung upon that cross, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do". Remember that the greatest commandment is to love your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. TO LOVE. It's not right to be in those places, it most definitely isn't fair, but sometimes we are there nonetheless, and we must remember to love, to love as He did!

And maybe you have been on the other side, as I all too often find myself, ignoring God, fighting God, fighting those He loves, hurting others, letting fear of man control of me as it did to Peter, letting fear of comfort control you as it did to Judas, and every time turning your back on God, turning aside the want of others in replace of only what you want. Know this, as I so often remind myself, God died for you. He forgave you on the cross. He took your faults, your screw-ups, your pride, your failures, and He took them upon Himself and in exchange, gave you His righteousness. It is the most powerful expression of love EVER. and all I have to do is see what He did, accept it, repent, and follow after Him. He bridged the canyon for me and for you.

But it doesn't end there! Jesus rose again. Tomorrow we celebrate Resurrection day, more popularly known as Easter. The day that life conquered death, that sin lost it's power, and that God became victorious since forever and until forever. We now not only have an unconditional love, but a hope of one day returning to heaven to glorify the Savior and perfecter of our faith. Man, if that doesn't get you going, I don't know what will!

"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." Philippians 3:10-12

This is a holiday weekend of an evident love! A love that unconditionally was poured out for everyone. A love that forgives despite the circumstances. A love that reconciles and brings together those that were once separated. 

If you have 10 minutes, check out this sweet video! THE GOSPEL

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Love is Not Always Given

I decided to cut the road trip story short. Not much happened the rest of the trip except countless hours of driving, a sketchy hotel in Colorado, and the Arches National Park. Now I could probably pull some abstract idea of what there was to learn from a giant arch looming over us, and I could probably write a funny story of all that happened during the boring drive home, and to be honest, I had already done that and was ready to write that part of the trip, but I decided this is an exponentially more applicable topic right now, especially in my own heart.

What do you do when someone wrongs you? or even worse, what so you do when you wrong someone else? Or maybe a mixture of the two? We all make stupid choices in the life, in the words we speak, in the actions we live out. People will make stupid, unwise, painful choices to you that will either directly or inadvertently hurt you, just as at some point, you will do the same thing back to people. It's a universal struggle to make right choices ALL the time. When things begin to turn sour, it starts to get very hard and you are confronted with many other challenges. Is it right to point out when someone wrongs you, even if they didn't intend it that way or didn't realize it? What is someone comes to you with a list of wrongs, maybe even a list that you don't agree was wrong? Is it alright to talk to others about struggles you are having with others? and if you do, what light should you shed on it, Reality? Humility (only your wrongs)? Pride (only their wrongs)? And most importantly, how are these situations resolved? These are all tough questions and even tougher to put to action. We all too often place selfishness in front of humility, anger in front of forgiveness, pride in front of God.

I've noticed lately that a lot of people, including me, do not know the answers to these questions, or don't see how to take action. When someone wrongs us, we all too often lose sight of the blood of Jesus Christ. That person attacked me, they hurt me, they made me lose some of my blood! YEAH BUT, you have attacked Jesus, you have hurt Him, You made Him lose His blood. Every time I do something wrong, either to someone else or to myself, I am sinning against God as well. And YET, God - forgave - us. While we were yet sinning, while we didn't think we needed forgiveness, He forgave me of all my sins. FORGIVENESS is the answer. I heard a song a few days back and last night I played it all night as I was sleeping, hoping it would be beaten into my brain while I slept. These are the lyrics to the chorus:

Seven times Seventy times
I'll do what it takes to make it right
I thought the pain was here to stay
But forgiveness made a way
Seven times Seventy times
There's healing in the air tonight
I'm reaching up to pull it down
Gonna wrap it all around

This is a call to step up! To everyone! Whether you are a freshmen in high school, a staff for some organization, or Billy Graham, you are not above humility and forgiveness. You don't out grow you're need to be humble and forgive. We all need to step up. What is it about ourselves that we let pride get in the way all too often? I know there is nothing in myself that I can see that warrants the all too frequent pride I let get in the way. I am nothing. Maybe the more we see that, the easier it would be to talk to each other, to forgive one another, to admit wrongs to one another. All too often I see a shallowness in many of the friendships I see. I walk around campus, I look at my friendships, I look at what's missing, and I see no depth. And there is no depth because there is no forgiveness. Forgiveness overcomes pride, which in turns leads to trust, which in turns leads to depth and ultimately closer relationships, relationships that are enticing to those that see them, that draw others in, not push them out.

If you are having trouble forgiving someone, try seeing it from their perspective. I know all too often, all I recognize is what I saw or felt or the reason why that hurt me. I fail to recognize what they saw or felt or the personal reason to why it hurt them. or if that doesn't work, try seeing it from God's perspective. That's a for sure winning tactic.

So will you step up with me? Will you answer this call? We all need to. All too often when Love is not given, we decide to not give love in return. I say, when love is not always given, to give it back anyway.

There is never a time love shouldn't be given

Monday, April 4, 2011

Love is Selfless

Part 3 - Day 4 - Utah Spring Break Trip - Bryce Canyon

That night we were surprised yet again by our living arrangements. We had stayed in Zion Canyon for an expanded amount of time not looking forward to having to go to a boring cabin to sleep. But when we got there, our minds were blown. This RESORT had a mini golf, a pool, a tennis court, horse riding, a rec barn with tv and rock climbing and table tennis. Now unfortunately we couldn't do hardly any of it. The golf was closed, the pool was frozen over the night before, the tennis courts had snow drifts on them, and the rock climbing was unmanned. But nonetheless, we had a blast. Our "Cowboy Cabin" had a king sized bunk bed and a pull out couch bed. We were in heaven, or at least it looked that way with snow covered hills and canyons laid out in front of us and ponderosa pines engulfing our cabin. I was almost always the first one up and this day was no different. I made sure I woke up extremely early so I could explore and walk and read and write. The sunrise that morning was magnificent as the light reflected off the patches of snow. I walked around the entire resort listening to a podcast by Aaron Stern about the prodigal son and the reckless love of the father. The point of the podcast was, instead of figuring out which son you most identify with, to focus more on practicing the same love the father showed to both sons.

I mentioned it before, but for the first part of this trip I wasn't exactly being very selfless. I was getting annoyed and jealous and probably a little bitter for a span, especially on Zion day when a part of our company were constantly complaining and making opinionated comments about what was good and what was bad (and most of my likes fell in the bad). It definitely took a morning with God to reflect on my attitude. Have you ever found that when you pray, especially for the person you might feel angry at, that you begin to lose that anger? It works! It changes your heart completely! I determined the rest of the trip I would deliberately focus on being selfless, even if that meant being forgotten or put down. I didn't deserve anything I was getting angry about anyway. Afterall, as I talked about in the Grand Canyon post, God has already built a bridge for us all.

Bryce Canyon was stunning. It is at a higher elevation so there was a lot more snow that we had to trudge through. We ended up doing a short hike to the bottom of the canyon and back to the top. The soil was completely saturated and thus very muddy. At one point there was even a mini mud slide. But it was rigorous and adventurous and picturesque.

A lot of the time, I think I mix up selflessness with ignorance or apathy. Instead of purposely serving others, I end up just staying quiet and ignoring my wants and letting the group decide what they want to do. By being selfless, I withdraw. It might not exactly be the best way to go about it . . . . But things were a lot better that day. It might just be a new heart perspective or the fact that there were a whole lot less disagreements now that there were less people arguing over a bed, over where they were sitting, over what music was being played.

God is the essence of a selfless love. Intentionally giving up His Son who was beaten and bruised and then hung on a cross for a selfish people. He forgives before, during, and after all of our wrong choices. He set the example that I can only attempt to follow. He showed us how to die to ourselves even when someone wrongs us.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Love is Breathtaking

Day 2/3 (because we didn't really do anything on day 2)

So spoiler alert: I used the analogy I was going to use in this post on my Bike Adventure blog because I just couldn't contain it.  Which BTW if you haven't gotten a chance to check out is behind this LINK, Alright, lets dive in.

NAU is a fairly beautiful campus. It's kind of a mix between Tucson and the Northwest. The campus buildings were nothing spectacular and the landscaping wasn't anything to ride home about, but it did have one characteristic that made it seem somewhat serene and peaceful. When you get up to the elevation of Flagstaff, the air just gets more crisp, and the mountains smile down at you. Not everyone is driving around. It's quite peaceful. Unfortunately, we didn't stay. We had to get to Utah. So after a considerably slow train that stalled our journey onto Route 66, we were back on the road.

I've done this drive before (that's an entirely different story that I will touch on). It's not the most scenic drive. Pretty much any drive through Navajo Nation leaves the risk of two things happening: falling asleep to boredom and never ending streets - or - breaking an axle or over heating on the horribly paved streets. Needless to say, I did my best to try and fall asleep along this part of the trip. When we did eventually get to Lake Powell, it wasn't much. We were probably the liveliest things happening to that lake. Best part? you may be asking. There is this HUGE boat ramp that had to have been a good quarter mile or more in length. Merry, Gollum, and Myself decided to run up that steep bad boy. Best and worst decision of my life.

We had mixed feelings about Kanab. I had broken down for 4 days there on my last trip trough Utah. I, personally, love it! The red rocks around the city are gorgeous and the town is very quaint. The rest of the guys found it eerily creepy.  Either way, we were there for the night. Tomorrow we had Zion National Park in our GPS (we didn't actually have GPS)

Zion National Park is gorgeous! Behind Crater Lake, it might be my distant second favorite. It is absolutely breathtaking. And i mean that in more than one way. To get into the park, there is a 1.1 mile tunnel. (on my biking blog, i said 3 or 4, but it totally felt that long when you are holding your breath). During tunnels, I would always try to hold my breath when I was a kid. I thought this would just be another boring, quick tunnel. Turns out, after a good 45 seconds to a minute, I was about to die. When the tunnel was built in 1930, it was the longest car tunnel in the United States. Would have been nice to know that before hand. But the light at the end of the tunnel eventually came, even though I failed at holding my breath. And beyond that peaking light of the tunnel laid of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

God's creation is absolutely astonishing. And like I've said before, it takes your breath away. He created such a beautiful creation for us to witness. From the colors of a sunset, to the smells of a flower; From the magnificent starscape, to the intricacy of the human eye, God is the master of beauty. When you get a chance to get out of the hustle and bustle of city life and take a hike through a beautiful landscape, you began to be reminded of all He has done. Coincidentally enough, that night I read Psalm 50 which reads:

The Mighty One, God, the LORD,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
From Zion, perfect in beauty,
God shines forth.

Now I know it's a different Zion, but I thought that was so true! God is breathtaking! His love . . .

is breathtaking!

(all of the photos in this road trip story can be attributed to the skills of Chris Weber)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Love is Vast

Day 1: A calm, unblemished blue sky hung over us as we departed Phoenix up the inclined road of the I-17 toward Flagstaff. Seven men who came to be nicknamed Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippen, Gandalf, Legolas, and Gollum, crammed into a rustic gold, seven-seater minivan. What began as a distant idea was quickly taking form. 5 days of the open road lay ahead of them, traversing the national parks of southern Utah and Northern Arizona. What stories lay ahead of them they could only imagine. What vast lessons they would learn along the way could only be discovered.

Sometimes it’s easy to feel alone. Even when you are surrounded by 6 other people in a small van, it’s very easy to feel left out. This usually happens when my view of myself becomes much smaller than it should be. I begin to compare myself to others rather than to God and I always feel inadequate or out of place. Other times, I view myself to highly and feel better than the rest. When this happens it’s very important to get away, get back into the word and remember whom I should be comparing myself to, and whose eyes I should be viewing myself through.

We were there. Every step closer revealed an ever-growing gape in the earth’s crust. An ever-widening gap for which there is no bridge to cross. Words can’t really describe how vast that canyon is. I tried to visualize what a normal cliff would be like standing by itself and then placed that cliff into what I was seeing. There were 5 such cliffs layered into the canyon, each one more impressive then the one below it. Standing on the edge of a sheer rock face, I began feeling like a miniscule little ant compared to the immensity of what I was seeing. I can only imagine what an astronaut or the astronomers of Hubble must feel when they see the planet in it’s entirety, or zoom into a seemingly black spot in space and reveal thousands of galaxies. We are so tiny.

The Grand Canyon kind of reminds me of my inadequacy to Christ (except more impossible to traverse). I have built a chasm. On one side stands me, on the other stands God, in between, a vast canyon separating me from Him. There is no possible thing I can do to get to the other side. A hardened rock formation of bitterness, jealousy and loneliness makes up my cliff walls. Even on the car ride up, I could pinpoint various times I felt such emotions. I am the master canyon builder. But the Master Engineer stepped in and built a bridge across my crafted canyon in the form of His son on the cross. It reminds you exactly how vast God’s love really is, and how much our love falls incredibly short. Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, while we were yet in the process of widening and deepening our canyon. And that is freeing! It frees me from guilt and self-righteousness, from expecting others to be perfect. I can step back see the bridge He built across my canyon, and then look and see the many other bridges He has built for those around me.

Gandalf drove us back to Flagstaff that night with Pippen as his co-pilot. 4 more days of the driving still loomed over the trip. It had only been 12 hours. Tomorrow, the journey would take them into the state of Utah, into many more evidences of the type of love God has for us. Into day 2

Monday, February 28, 2011

Love is Breaking Through

"Through the fog there is hope in the distance. From cathedrals to third world missions, love will fall to the earth like a crashing wave!" Toby Mac - City on our Knees

Fog is an interesting thing. When I lived in Washington, we would have many a foggy mornings. My memorized sights and locations on the way to high school that I can see perfectly on any other day, would be completely washed out as i struggle to see whether or not the light in front of me was red or green. Traffic becomes a dangerous concern as car lights become a muffled mess reflecting every which way off the rain droplets in the mist. Even when turning on your car lights in hopes to break through the fog and see the path more clearly, you in fact make it harder to see. As your headlights become brighter, the cloud in front of you only becomes more visible. It was scary the first time I found that out, (along with the first time i found out to not shoot windshield fluid when it's 20 degrees outside). I have never seen fog in Arizona, the clouds just never seem to be able to get low enough. But yesterday, the clouds were lower than usual as a "snow" storm blew through. The clouds which completely fogged the Catalina Mountains eventually rolled away and revealed a majestic winter scene. The mountains are basically no longer white (the pains of living in Arizona) but yesterday was quite possibly one of the most beautiful instances I have seen here.

During winter break I was driving with Danielle and her friend Cheryl up to Cheney to see my buddy ol pal Brandon. It was a particularly sketchy day. Very foggy, snow everywhere, streets a little icy but very salted and graveled down. That was when I initially started thinking about this subject. Ironically enough, this song by Tobymac came on while I was thinking about it. It's such an amazing song. Anyway, the fog made it almost impossible to see anything, the trees we were driving by, the cars driving the other way. It's scary.

And yet so is life. Life is a fog! You can't see anything in front of you! Personally, I have no idea what lies ahead. Will I finish school? will I travel the world? will I get married? will i, will i, will i . . . It's impossible to know the future but I will just keep on driving because I know God sees all of time laid out before Him.

My favorite experience about fog is when it begins to lift. Slowly the sun begins to become a blurred light. Patches of blue light begin to appear. And finally the sun breaks through in a glorious appearance. It's just a matter of time. Our Son will show up and break through the fog and light up our path for a short time, directing each one of ours steps. He will lift the clouds, revealing majestic snow capped mountains. Hold strong through the fog, drive forward in anticipation of that light,

Love is breaking through!

Psalm 42 - As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, “Where is your God?” When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me; Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, And from the heights of Hermon, From the Hill Mizar. Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me. The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night His song shall be with me— A prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a breaking of my bones, My enemies reproach me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Love is The Forefront

"It's evident You run the show so let me back down, You take the leading role and I'll play the background" "I can play the background, Cuz I know sometimes I get in the way, So won't you take lead and I can play the background" - Lecrae

"We must war against the flesh, so that we don't place Christ on the back-burner for sin, aim to have a Spirit-like Mindset and glorify God in whatever you do/think!" Victor Yates

Lately things have been messed up. I'll be the first to attest to that. I feel like relationships that I've been holding so dear are being taken held hostage by the enemy. Whatever seems to be the case: lack of communication, jealousy, being wronged, lack of forgiveness, fear, gossip, all of the above - They are slowly and painfully deteriorating into apathy. But when it all comes down to it, it is too much selfishness mixed with a lack of grace and a lack of love.

Today, I saw the movie, "The Grace Card" and the message of the movie rocked me. So many times we build up these walls with people. "Oh, well I heard this story about him so we can't be friends", "Oh, that girl used to do that horrible thing, so I will constantly always have to judge her for that in my heart", "This person has hurt me too deeply to forgive them", or the most painful of them all, "Because of something that happened with this person, I am going to ignore, separate, and gossip about it until it blows over to the next thing". In the movie, much pain was had between two friends, especially with one of the friends families. All of the above walls were possible, but grace was ultimately chosen. Grace healed everything! So often I feel we are too quick to step back and judge then to step forward and offer a hand of grace; too quick to lash back in anger, in defense, in selfishness, then to lash back in love and in grace and in selflessness. I know all too often I see my heart lashing out in anger after being wronged and in jealousy when i see someone else being blessed. It's our apathetic tendency. But I say we strive more after a Godly tendency. As Mr. Yates said above, "aim to have a Spirit-like mindset and glorify God in whatever we do/think."

We can say we love our friends and our family and maybe even our enemies, but until our actions show it, I would disagree. Love needs to be the forefront of our lives. Do everything you can to not let apathy get in the way, to not let selfishness cloud your relationships, to not let sin destroy. Begin playing the background as God leads your life. Play the background in your relationships as you put others before you. It's a hard task, but a fulfilling one.

Give out the grace card

"I promise to pray for you everyday, ask your forgiveness, grant you the same, and be your friend always"

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love is Genuine

okay, I am going to read Romans 12:9-10 out of the message translation before I read it in actuality. I like the way this is worded. "Love from the center of who you are, don't fake it! Run for dear life from what is evil; Hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle"

Whether you are married, engaged, in a relationship, or for most of the people that probably read this, single, You can gleam incredible knowledge from this passage of scripture. The whole passage in the ESV reads as follows.

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."

If you weren't aware, today is valentines day. (If you have a special someone and you didn't know that, proceed to thinking of ideas of how to show them genuine love now) Valentines day is the day of love. Mostly a distorted love but a love nonetheless. This doesn't mean that we can't strive to treat this day with a true love. Remember first off, that God loves us! He already made the biggest love sacrifice 2000 years ago. He fulfills all of our longing for a significant other; He fulfills all of our passions and dreams. In Him is everything found. No other man or woman will ever provide that for you! He is the ultimate valentine no matter what your relationship status is.

ok, so now that the most important premise is set, how should we treat this valentines day amongst each other? Should we wait for all the wonderful candies and cards like we did in elementary school when all we wanted was a valentine card from a girl named Ilana? Or whatever your story was. Should we seek to bring glory to our selves in the way that we give? If we are single, should we condemn the holiday and keep living for ourselves like nothing else matters? Should we constantly be depressed that we have no one to spend it with? should we seek to have someone fulfill the wants and needs in our lives in a never ending longing and obsession for love? OF . . . COURSE. . . . NOT! In the verse above, the main point is to be unselfish, to be genuine, to out honor everyone else!

Love is not to be fake, or selfish, or self glorying, or depressed! Its to be completely content on God's love and then to display that love to those around you! It's about the smile you can put on their face! It's about the joy you can give to them! So on this Valentine's day, and really every day, just go display genuine love to people! Take this verse with you today. write it down, memorize as much as you can of it, think about what it means, overall just metaphorically chew on it wherever you go.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Love is Trust Revisited

So I have been reading through the book of Psalms lately in my new commentary that I got for Christmas, and I have found something very interesting. If you don't mind, I am a stats major, so let me lay out some important stats for you. I have read through the first 37 psalms so far. As I keep track, a form of the word trust shows itself in 22 of those 37 psalms. It appears 31 times total during that span. And after a little research, I found that it appears almost 70 times in the whole book. And I am only counting when the trust refers to trusting in the Lord, not in man. Those are some crazy stats! David, who penned most of the psalms, was a man who constantly trusted in God. He was called "A man after God's own heart". Hence, the name I used on this blog because I want to seek after God's heart too. But what does that mean? Well for one thing it means you are constantly after God's heart in a situation, after His will, after what He wants for you, looking for His guidance, searching for His heart toward those around you. That takes a lot of trust on Him to come through and to fulfill His promises. When you are after His heart, you begin to lose sight of yours as inevitably your heart becomes His. This is a HUGE characteristic of love. So much though that I am visiting the topic for a second time.

My last post on trust, is all still relevant. All those situations are still laid before me and at sometimes I do get worried (or excited: sometimes its hard to know which it is). But this post is going to focus a lot less on situations and more on the love and the relationship. Yesterday at Cru at UA, we had our Love and Relationship talk. It will be online
at this link soon. But during the question panel, an obvious truth stuck out to me. They almost all talked about trust in their relationships and marriages. Afterall, why be in a relationship with someone you can't trust? When you fall in love with a person, it's not a feeling. Love is a choice based essentially on the trust you two share. Obviously there is a lot more that goes into that, but why build on anything where the foundation does not exist? That's just stupid house planning. And I'll admit, I have built some stupid houses in my day.

I used to have a hard time trusting anyone, let alone a girl. I guess I had just never seen or experienced relationships or marriages to last very long. I never grew up seeing love between husband and wife, only mother to son. Somehow that enveloped in my mind this last 21 years of my life and I never trusted in any relationship, I even had a hard time trusting in God. As hard as I tried, I always went in with a subconscious mindset that it wouldn't last and that I didn't want to get hurt, instead of how I should have, which would have been going in with a mindset that says, I am going to put my heart into this relationship in expectation it will last a very very long time. I can remember the main relationship I've had in my life. That was a train wreck for me. There was no foundation ever built on my end, nor was there any ounce of expectation on my part. I hardly knew what it meant to love, to trust, to care, to share, to dream, to grow, etc. etc. I can tell you first hand that it doesn't work! When you go into a relationship with no trust, you began to breakdown on essential issues such as agape love between one another and communication together. You began to care more about what you want and think than what they want or think, and that, my friends, is a recipe for disaster. You desperately need trust initially and forever more as the rest of the house begins to be built upon it. I'll even emphasize INITIALLY. You can't build a house and then go back and make the foundation. I can imagine that wouldn't work out to well.

All that to say, there is a more over-arcing love that is important to us. That would be our relationship and marriage with our Savior, our God! You may say that you love God, but do you trust Him? If you don't trust Him, how can you say that you love Him? And you can say you trust Him and brush it off, but do you actually show that you trust Him in your life? Everything I just said, has the same affect here. You need that foundation! You can't love him selfishly! and you can't go into a relationship with Him expecting blessings and a good life, without a foundation of trust. When you initially start a relationship with God (or more realistically, He starts a relationship with You) trust is the first thing. He promises that He has your best interests at heart, that He will give you a future and hope, that He died for you, that He is preparing a place for you in heaven. It is our part in the relationship to accept His gifts as we trust in Him. And at the same time, reciprocating as much trust as you can to Him, showing Him that you care more about the path He has for you, then the path you set out for yourself. That you care more about giving and receiving love with Him, then you do with anyone else or thing. This is the most important relationship in our lives! And all to often, it seems we care more about what we have right in front of us, then what we have for the rest of eternity.

Relationships can be messy. You don't need to tell me that. But whats most important is that if you figure out you haven't been trusting in your relationship with a girl/guy or with God, you can knock the house over Extreme Home Makeover style, and lay that foundation and start over with the building based on the right premise. There is overwhelming forgiveness with Your relationship with God. He could build the whole house for you if He so desired (He was a carpenter after all), but He lets us help build with Him because a relationship is so important. Love is ultimately a choice, and He designed it that way.

So I will trust in Him.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Love is Everything

"Following Christ has nothing to do with success as the world sees success. It has to do with love"
Madeleine L'Engle

When I look through the Bible, I see one common theme, Love. From Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, from creation to new creation, through all the ups and terrible downs lived in this world, love flows through them all. Sometimes it's harder to see then others; sometimes it looks like everything is falling apart and there is no evident love visible; and sometimes love is present abundantly, but I'm convinced love has always and will always be there to save, comfort, forgive, and give hope. So many times we lose sight of the love that was given to us. I know I do. I get so apathetic, distracted, and frustrated that I seem to begin not learning anything. And then I realize that I have forgotten about love, I go back to communion with my Lord, and my heart is completely changed. In this all-encompassing post, I am going to go through 3 basic points about how love is everything to us and should be everything from us.

God loved us!
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life"
John 3:16

This verse is the most popular verse in and out of Christianity and yet all too often it becomes skipped over. For God so loved the world, the sinners, You and me, everyone! That he gave his only Son. He separated Himself from His son as He took the sins of the world upon himself taking my death penalty that I deserved. THAT IS LOVE. I have to constantly come back to that because it is all too often to skip over that due to it's over use. But everything hinges on that act of love. Even now as I think about it, my mind is blown. I don't deserve that. I definitely don't comprehend it. All those stars in the sky: yeah, He created them out of His love for me to see His glory and majesty; All those microscopic molecules holding everything together, He created them out of His love for me to show me His power and perfection; All those laws He gave to govern were created out of His love for me to show me His grace and holiness; That one act of dying on the cross was for me to see His amazing love and forgiveness and for me to fall on my knees and worship Him for everything!

We love Him
"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment"
Mark 12:30

I touched on this a little in the last part because as I sat their looking at God's love for me, I couldn't contain bursting out my love for Him. And that's exactly as it should be. When you grasp that God loves you, you love God. David loved the Lord as he searched out for God in every moment. You can see it over and over throughout his psalms that he constantly searched and found God's love in everything and then reciprocally shouted out in love for God. This is the most important thing we can do! It is the first commandment for a reason because without a love for God, all other love becomes futile. It becomes an act of work. Without love for Him, everything we do is nothing, but with love for Him, everything we do seems like nothing in the scope of all He did for us.

We love others

"And the second, like it, is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, There is no other commandment greater than these."
Mark 12:31
"By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another"
John 13:35

As we live our lives, we are to take the love we are given and give it out. Love our neighbors, Love one another, Love our friends, Love our enemies. As 1 Corinthians 13 point out, everything we do should be out of love. Talking to friends or strangers about the gospel is to love them enough to want them to know the love we have. I heard this quote from my roommate that convicted me a lot: "When we die and become a part of Christ's Kingdom in Heaven, I don't think we're going to miss worldly obsessions like college football and video games and sex and money. I think we're going to feel the absence of those who we loved, just not enough to tell them about the truth of Jesus." We love because we want them to know the truth, because we don't want to feel their absence after this life. Every serving act of humility and anonymity, every word spoken in grace and truth, every rebuke given in caring, should be with this motivation, based off of our love for God, which is based off how much God loves us!

Let us realize God's infinite love for us, Let us glorify Him out of our thankful hearts that love Him, and let everything we do while on this earth be an act of loving Him and loving others.

Love is everything!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Love is Identification

Who am I??

That is a very serious question. So often it seems like my life means nothing on a piece of paper. There is no extraordinary GPA on my transcript. There are no seemingly applicable skills I can write on an application to blow someone away. Sometimes I feel like I am just good at a whole bunch of different things but never extremely excel in any given area. So much is emphasized as important in our culture. They want you to graduate college, get a high paying job right away, and work to advance our nation to a "better tomorrow". None of that seems important to me and yet it rules over me like its my only choice. What If I never get a job earning 80,000 a year? What if no one in the world ever learns my name? What If I am not eloquent or articulate in speech to impress people? What if I never have a nice house in the suburbs with a stereotypical family? Does that make me a failure to this civilization's standards? I constantly feel the fear of rejecting this normalcy. I feel like people will look down on me if I don't set "high" goals for my life and accomplish them. And somehow this view creeps into my walk with God. Does He look at me that way? Could I ever account to worth towards him? I look around and I seem alone as everyone continues to strive forward.

And then I look into the bible. . . "But Moses said to God, 'Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?'" . . . "Then Moses said to the Lord, 'Oh My Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; But I am slow of speech and slow of tongue'". . . "Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and he said, 'Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far?'" Wait, so King David, the king of Israel, A man after God's own heart, questioned in humility that he didn't feel worthy to be used by God? And Moses, the rescuer of the Israelites in Egypt, the man who could have become Pharaoh in Egypt, he felt unworthy to be used by God as well? This might just slightly be astonishing to me! He took people that doubted themselves, who saw no self worth, and in humility questioned His plan for them, and used them in GREAT ways.

I may never end up with a great paying job, or a convenient home near family and friends in a beautiful place, or with my name on a civilization changing bill. So what If I wasn't taught certain things that only a father could have? So what If I never have a college degree? I may just end up being the person that sweeps streets in anonymity to most of the world. But who cares what the culture thinks of me! Who cares if, according to the world, I didn't accomplish anything in life! I refuse to accept that's the only way to succeed. Afterall, my identity is not to this world. My identity is to who Christ says I am, to what Christ did for me! I am a child of God, I am a friend of Jesus, I am chosen, holy, and blessed before God. No matter where I am at, God will pull me through. He will work in me to accomplish His will. I can be assured of that. No matter where I end up, it will all be to the glory of Him! And like I mentioned before, if I end up sweeping streets, that is quite all right with me. . . All to God's glory! Dr. Martin Luther King said it best,

"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare composed poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper, who did his job well.’”

Lets do our job well!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Love is a walk in the park

So this will be one of my shortest posts ever. It is also, if you've paid attention, my second post today. I know, very strange. First time I've ever done that. But I believe this short, sweet message is so true. I decided about mid afternoon to go for a walk while I listened to podcasts. I walked all over, from campus, to University Avenue, to Himmel Park. And I just listened to powerful messages, and I prayed and talked, and listened to my God. It's true that love is a walk in the park. Love is spending time together. And as I walked through the park, I spent time with Him, my love, the creator of everything, the giver of life. It was so refreshing to take a step out of time and just relax and enjoy creation.

Make room to spend time with God where you have the availability to just sit and listen. Maybe not walking through the park, but just having a time of day where you can read or listen or anything! You will never regret it and it may even change your day.

Love is always there

I've found myself in a place of confusion, of disorientation, of being stranded with no one to help. For those of you that don't know what I am dealing with, let me explain. I am not attending school this semester. Financially, my family has hit rock bottom. Last semester, financial aid wasn't able to cover everything and has left me with a $6,500 debt to pay off. My mom just found out she needs a new engine for her car on top of all the car issues I am facing. She is also facing surgery for a meniscus tear that has been bothering her for a while. Things seem like they are going the wrong direction. Due to all of this, I have had to face the decision whether or not to stay in Arizona to finish school. This semester I am searching for a job, for a scholarship, for help, but at the end of the semester I will most likely be moving to Colorado to finish school at a cheaper rate. There are so many choices I have in front of me, so many life changes, so many difficulties. It's all so crazy right now, but this morning I had a confirmation of sorts in the scripture I read. This morning I read out of Psalm 22, Philippians 3, and the last chapter of Ben Courson's book, "A Generation Chosen". Psalm 22 starts off with this: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are You so far from helping me and from the words of my groaning. O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear, And in the night season, and am not silent." You ever have times where you felt like that? I can think of one major one.

The time: 3:00 pm, location: somewhere in Southern Utah, temperature: 95 degrees. I was on my way home from school. I had decided to drive home this summer. Instantly, driving through Arizona, my car started overheating sporadically, especially on hills. I thought it was just because I was hauling a lot of weight. As I descended the mountains, the problem went away, but it also got A LOT hotter. The car started to spike on the temperature gauge. I managed to draft an RV for an hour, providing a way for the car to not overheat. We drove through the most barren of landscapes, nothing in sight. Unfortunately, the RV didn't drive all the way to Washington. He pulled off at the border of Arizona and Utah. For the next hour or so I was pulling off the side of the road every two miles to cool down the car. Finally I got discouraged. Was I ever going to get home? Was anyone going to help me? Would I be stranded here forever forging my own living in the red rock, barren landscape of Southern Utah? I was stranded. But as I sat their, tears swelling on my face, a lady stopped and helped me. She drove me to the nearby city of Kanab, got me hooked up with a tow truck, and then let me stay at her house for 4 days while my car was being fixed. I eventually got on the road again, got home, and lived on without having to forge my own living through Utah wilderness.

And guess who else realized that God is always there. David says in the same psalm, verse 24, "For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard." Now you may know the first part of this psalm was quoted by Jesus on the cross. In fact, this entire psalm is a prophecy of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And in that, I can know that I will always be heard. God heard his son cry out on the cross! In fact when Paul took grasp of what Jesus did, he understood something that I often lose focus of.

Philippians 3:8-10 says "Yet indeed, I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ, that I may be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death"

When I return to what Jesus did for me, I can remember that no matter how lost and stranded I get, the Lord will always be there to rescue me, to give me direction, to walk me through, step by step, the suffering I might be going through. When I return to the crucifixion and resurrection of our savior, I count everything else as loss. I know he saved me, I know his power, I know he hears me, and I know he has a future and a hope for me.

It was crazy when I read the same thing in Bens book about his experience getting lost in the redwoods and needing to call for a ranger to rescue Him. He was stranded, lost, and afraid just like me. We all get there, we make a wrong turn, we lose sight, things get foggy, it seems like there is nothing going right. We cry out, and guess what, the Lord hears us!

He is always there!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Love is Powerful

A week ago, devastation struck Tucson. If by some chance you missed it, a gunman opened fire at a small congress event at a local supermarket, hitting almost 20 people, sadly killing 6 of them. They were a mixed group, some elderly from all walks of life, one a younger adult about to get married, and one a nine year old girl. Of the injured was our congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, who is miraculously recovering from a shot to her head. In that moment, love seemed gone as horror and anger changed the lives of so many. The families of all the lost ones now had a gaping hole, while the families of the injured had to completely change their lives to be there for their loved ones. The family of the gunman is left in confusion, in pain, and also without their son. I can't imagine being the fiancé of the guy; or the brother, mom, dad, or any of the school friends of the nine year old girl. I can't imagine being the spouse of someone for so long and then have them be dramatically taken away, or the children or grandchildren of someone and not be able to be there for them as they passed away. I can't even imagine having to be the families of the injured after such an unexpected event. Everyone's first reaction is to be angry, to be revengeful, to turn love aside as it had been turned aside to them. Everyone knows this wasn't right, and that things like this should never happen, let alone to them. But sadly things that devastate like this happen every day. I mean just this last Tuesday, a devastating flood hit Brisbane Australia, and last year about this time, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti. These are just huge occurrences. small scale events happen all the time. A quote has been hovering around my facebook newsfeed that I would like to share that I feel ties into how everyone feels after events like these. Its from a small booklet called "Backstory".

"Instilled in us is a longing for the ideal world and perfect intimacy for which we were created. We sense that the evils of war and rape and death are alien to our existence. As Martin Luther King Jr. observed, we are confronted by an "eternal oughtness:" that the world is not as it ought to be, that unconditional love and perfect peace are forever elusive"

Isn't that the truth? We all wonder why such evil things can happen, why God can't stop the evil that occurs, our faith may even be shaken. I watched a Louie Giglio video last night that talked about a girl who was devastatingly taken in a car accident. Her step brother wrote in a letter to Louie that he didn't understand how a loving God could let this happen to him. He had said that he prayed for miraculous events for others in his lifetime and witnessed some crazy things happen like terminal cancer being cured, but when it came to the one time he needed God the most, he didn't come through for him. After all that though he ends the email with this: "and it's not so fair that so many lives are screwed up forever, because God did not answer the prayers of so many that were praying so hard that night. God ignored us, and He did not care, which makes me wonder if everything I've ever believed in my whole life was for nothing, but then I feel so guilty for almost not believing in my Savior."

But love is powerful! When things happen that we could never expect, that shake us to our core, that confuse us, anger us, sadden us, devastate us, Love can overcome. When you think that God doesn't love you anymore, look to the cross, where the most powerful thing happened in all of history. God sent his son to die for us while we were yet sinners, while we were yet against Him, while we did not love Him, while we questioned whether He ever loved us, so that He could demonstrate His love for us! He took everything that separated us from God upon Himself, separating Himself from God temporarily, and giving us His righteousness so that we might spread that hope, love, grace, and righteousness with others. It is a POWERFUL thing. I could go on forever about this topic with various song lyrics, book quotes, and videos that I have watched recently about God's love in an evil world, and how without evil, there is no choice, there is no love, and there is nothing to overcome.

When devastating things happen, love is the only choice. It has the power to change lives around, the power to overcome anger and revenge,

the power to save us!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Love is Grown

This New Years, many people will make resolutions to change in some way, many for the better, some, sadly, for the worse. A resolution to start exercising; to quit smoking or drinking or some other dangerous habit; to spend less time working and more time with family. They will put in a great effort to personally overcome and change their lifestyle. Most will fail, give up, forget, lose focus. However, I have a different New Years goal that I desperately want and desperately want others to pick up as well. A goal that doesn't matter if you lose focus, temporarily forget, or fail miserably. The only thing that's not allowed is giving up. That goal is getting closer to God, serving Him wholeheartedly, and letting Him continually change me so that I might better display Christ to those around me.

When a plant first starts, it comes from a seed. A seed is internally alive but externally asleep. Nothing grows as long as the seed is not planted. It will remain asleep for extended amounts of time until it finally gets planted but when it finally does a miracle occurs. With the mixture of soil to dig into and water being provided, the hard shelled seed opens up and digs into the ground. Slowly and surely it grows, sprouting out of the soil, and then when it sees the light from the sun, it takes off. All this to say, once a seed is planted, it is continually growing and changing. This is what I want in my life, and would love to see take over this generation. For so long, I have felt stagnant. Yeah my knowledge might have been growing as I continually got in the Word, but I wasn't letting it change me. I would even suggest that I hadn't fully grasped what I was reading yet. But over this winter break, it's really been striking me how little my passion for God truly was. I had fears in my life that I couldn't get around, fear of man was a huge one. Not only did that fear constantly keep me thinking what others thought of me, it made me afraid to change as well. Maybe that's why Solomon wisely said in Proverbs 29:25, "Fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe." That snare will keep you stagnant. A plant that is stagnant is dead. DEAD. A plant that is growing is healthy and alive.

From one of my favorite movies, "To Save A Life", the stand out quote for me is when the main character, Jake, convicts his youth group, "what is the point of all this if you're not going to let it change you?" That is a valid question. After all in Revelation 2, God confronts the church at Ephesus that if they remain lukewarm, He will SPIT them out of His mouth. For a while I have felt stuck, knowing my lifestyle wasn't what I most wanted, that I constantly let my fears and failures keeping me from changing. Maybe you have felt that or maybe are feeling that right now. I was confused on how exactly to escape and change. I was sitting around waiting for God to just miraculously change me despite my lack of concern for Him. But God tells the church at Ephesus, how to escape their stagnancy. He says to return to their first love, to return to Jesus, to return to the Word. It's amazing how that works when you simply refocus on the cross, on the grace and righteousness given by Jesus Christ. That truth alone, if you let it sink in, has the potential to set you on a growth process that will take off. Read 2 Corinthians 5:12-21 and really chew on what it's saying here, take your time if you have to.

"For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him".

That is a powerful statement that compels us to change continuously; to turn away from desires of this world and toward the grace of Jesus Christ. When you truly get that, you CHOOSE to change. One small step at a time, one day at a time, you pick up your cross, remember the Lord, chew on His truth, and it changes you. There is no choice of stagnancy IF YOU TRULY GET THAT. I have overwhelmingly come to understand that. That is why this New Years, my goal is to day by day, remember God and live for Him, allowing Him to change me continuously into the person He wants, and what ultimately what I want. This 2011 is not going to be stagnant.

I am going to let my plant grow! and I'm going to help others plants grow too!