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!