“There’s No I In Team”

When I joined the student ministry team here as an intern, it did not take long for my co-workers to realize that underneath my exterior is a very competitive spirit. I am so competitive, in fact that I had to remove myself from a group game of dodge ball for the sake of my reputation as an intern. Can you blame me though? I grew up in a generation that loved to measure excellence through awards and affirmation. Culture taught us that to survive we must perform at a greater capacity than those around us. We all desired to stand out for the sake of our individuality. In my case, an outlet to achieve this individuality was club soccer. I loved the atmosphere of sports as you can imagine. I thrived off of competition and adrenaline on game days. Unfortunately, when competition became a priority, so did the importance of my individual success. I took the “team mentality” out of the equation, and you know what they say, “There’s no I in team!”

And you know what? There’s no I in peace either.

 Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Hebrews 12:14 “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

The Greek word for peace is ειρήνη or eiréné. This word eiréné comes from the root word eirō, which literally means, “To join, tie together in a whole.” It’s interesting how even the word itself suggests that peace is a communal act. Philippians tells us the Lord has capability to give us peace that transcends all understanding, but this does not excuse us to be complacent with individual peace. We are called to create peace not only within ourselves but also within our families, our friends, our church body, other denominations, all believers, and even non-believers. Our flesh fights for “worldly” and against Godly peace. Our society tells us there are other ways to find peace:

If I’m silent, there will be peace.

If I submit, there will be peace.

If I withhold my opinion, there will be peace.

If I avoid confrontation, there will be peace.

I always viewed the word peace as one that encompassed joy, contentment, and truly anything that was good. When we deem something to be good, we have the potential to separate it from anything we deem “bad.” I think, maybe, because of the way we have viewed peace, we cannot acknowledge how difficult the path to it may be. The process towards communal peace was not promised to be an easy path; it can be quite messy and very overwhelming.

Sometimes peace means hard conversations.

Sometimes peace means actively regarding another’s opinion.

Sometimes peace means admitting we are wrong.

Sometimes peace means asking God to evaluate our innermost being.

 

And sometimes peace is simply remembering, “There’s no I in peace.”

 

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Power of Prayer

If you know me at all you know I hold tightly to my independence. Doesn’t take much time around me to see that I love doing things myself and hate asking for help. I thrive on opportunities to prove people wrong about my capabilities. Our society expects perfection and rewards workaholics, managers shout thanksgiving for employees who exceed what is asked. Unfortunately this posture becomes unwelcome in relationship with the Lord.  That in which I prided myself on most became my biggest barrier between the Lord and I. Last summer I hit a place of desperation when I no longer could rely on this independence. A place I found when I tried so desperately to swim against current, trying to depend on my own knowledge and discernment. One of the many things I’ve learned this summer at North Atlanta COC is the importance of receiving. A place of dependence is one of the Lord’s favorite places for us to be in. THIS posture welcomes the Lord.

Growing up, I viewed prayer as a form of magic. Not the miracle-magic kind, but the fairytale-magic kind. The kind of magic that resembled the fairy-god-mother in cinderella who granted her wishes based on what she desired. How thankful am I that the Lord knows the difference between a want and necessity. The temptation with this fairytale-like comparison is that we believe prayer is just that, a fairytale. Prayer through this lens becomes a wish we desire to be granted, a question we hope to be answered. We’re so busy focusing on the request or the result that we miss the relationship thats intended behind prayer. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve spent so much time worrying about destination that we lose the beauty in the journey. When I look back on my hardship in prayer, I’m thankful. Now a year later I appreciate the journey of prayer, not because of any answer I received but for what the the Lord taught me about who He is.

Matthew 26:36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. 41 ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’

42 He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Even Jesus spent significant time in prayer. In His greatest time of sorrow he turned to prayer. Three times he goes away to talk with the Lord, talking to Him about the crucifixion that is to come. He wrestles with the Lord. But as you read you see Jesus’ prayer begin to change. When Jesus spent more time with the Lord, His prayers began to change. When we spend time with the Lord, our requests begin to minimize. Our desires begin to shift. Our heart begins to align with the Lord’s. What if the idea of prayer isn’t about the “ask” at all? What if prayer is all about the process? What if instead of asking God for answers we wrestle with God for our answers? What if instead of searching for the Lord in our future we search for Him in our present? What if instead of our will we ask for His will? Fight against a culture of instant gratification through prayer, fight against fleshly desires, fight against temptation to fight your battles alone. What now will you pray for?

 

 

Ephesians 3:17a

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

When I read this scripture trying to figure out it’s purpose I began to wonder why these two words were added at the end of this phrase. The scripture could have stood on it’s own without it…

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts.

This scripture still would have made sense to us as readers. It doesn’t need those last words to be understood, so why add them? I began to ask myself is this “faith” a means to the Lords presence in my life? Is faith necessary in order for the Lord to dwell in my heart? That doesn’t really sound like the God I serve…I don’t think this scripture was meant to be treated as an if-then statement. If I have faith, THEN the Lord will dwell within me.

In Rob Bell’s book, What Is the Bible?, he talks about how Paul’s purpose in the first three chapters of Ephesians is to simply tell us who we are in Christ. After this affirmation, he then gives us instruction on living, that through faith the Lord will continue to dwell. In the same way, the beginning of this verse is meant to simply tell you who God is. The Lord desires to dwell within your heart. He is always functioning out of a desire for relationship, but then there’s our challenge to have faith. View it as accountability.

God isn’t saying “You must have faith,” but “will you have faith?”

The Lord is simply asking “Will you have faith to let this process of dwelling continue in your life?” So why did I choose to interpret the scripture like this? I guess you could argue that this is simply just my young twenty-year-old mind choosing to take it in this way. I would argue that the interpretation is clear based upon who our God is. Our God has always been a God of choice, not one of force. Force is not found within the confines of love; it cannot exist there, and this is what we believe Christianity to be based upon.

  • Adam and Eve had a choice in the garden.
  • Jonah had a choice to go to Nineveh.
  • Jesus had a choice to be sacrificed for our sin.
  • The man at the pool in John 5 had a choice to be healed.
  • Abraham had a choice to sacrifice Isaac.
  • Israel had a choice (a few actually) to choose a king apart from God.
  • Naomi had a choice to stay with Ruth after her family had died.

If you’ve read my previous blog on this story, you know why I love it so much. This story shows us that love and choice are interchangeable. If force cannot be found within the confines of love, then choices must remain within it. If these choices are found all throughout scripture, why in the world would we believe that God would treat us any differently? The Lord desires to give you the same choices.

God gives us the choice to have faith.

So now we ask the question: what in the world is faith? What does it mean? How is it described? Similar to the word love, faith gets thrown around so much that it has lost its meaning. We use these words so often that we’ve forgotten the truth behind them. In the midst of researching how faith can be described, I stumbled upon a passage of scripture through another blog I had found (also really great and more detailed if you want to give it a read). It brought me to Luke 7, kind of long but bear with me here…

The Faith of the Centurion

When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum.There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this,because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Here the centurion knows that his servant is dying but he tells Jesus, “Say the word, and my servant will be healed.” He knew how powerful Jesus word was. He then goes on using illustrations (verse 8) to further show his understanding of what it looks like to be taken at your word.

Great faith is simply taking God at His word.

  • When the Lord told Noah to build an ark, he took Him at His word.
  • When the Lord told Abraham to go to a new place and leave behind everything he knew, he took Him at His word.
  • When the Lord told Sarah she was going to have a son in old age, she took Him at His word.

All of these individuals took the Lord at his word even when it didn’t make sense to.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Despite logic or reason, these people continued to take the Lord at His word. They had paid close attention to the work the Lord had done in their lives prior to this moment, knowing that the steadfast love of the Lord would continue to their trials.

This described faith is necessary in the dry seasons when you forget what you know.

One of my biggest challenges in my faith walk is the constant battle of head versus heart. I’ve walked with the Lord my entire life. I’ve learned about the Lord in school and in church all 22 years of my life, yet I still fall short. If I know the Lord is faithful, why don’t I feel that way. I believe God to be a good God, but sometimes I still wonder if there’s any “good” left for me.  I am in a continuous roller coaster of emotions trying to get to a place where my heart finally catches up with my head, and praise God for His patience and grace through this process.

Ephesians 3:17a “Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you.”

Faith in the Lord is a process. The Lord dwells within you, but I believe to understand Him fully, we must continue to have faith every day. It’s a daily walk. The Passion Translation affirms this idea through its interpretation of this scripture. The more you choose to have faith in the Lord, the more He will reveal Himself to you. I believe by having faith you activate the spirit that is inside you. We have the easiest job in the world, to say yes to the choice He’s given us.  That is my prayer for you: that you will lean into the Lord that you will take Him at His word, and you will always be willing to say yes.

“Do not Worry.”

Last semester, I entered into a course called Communicating the Gospel. A class typically feared for its final project of preaching a sermon as our last grade in the course. Growing up in Christian education, it can be difficult to find the line between religion and relationship in context of Christianity, but somehow I found the silver lining to find the Lord in them both. My assigned passage for this course, and my final sermon was Do Not Worry found in Matthew 6. This passage was my favorite passage all throughout high school. Now, as a senior in college, this passage has given me a whole new insight to worry. Hopefully the journey through my sermon will provide a new lens for you too.

Do not worry…a well-known scripture.

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. The idea of worry and anxiety are found all throughout scripture.

  • Philippians 4 “Do not be anxious about anything”
  • Proverbs 12 tells us that anxiety weighs down the heart
  • 1 Peter 5 “cast your anxiety on him”

Do not worry in Matthew chapter 6 is just a small part of the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus’ most popular and most quoted sermon in today’s time. Why is this idea of worry discussed so often? Maybe it’s because of its applicability to our lives today. Maybe it’s because of the conviction it brings to the table. Or maybe it’s because of its persistent pursuit in our heart.

Do not worry…a good idea in theory.

  • “How is this possible?” asks the homeless man whose next meal isn’t provided.
  • The mother argues that worrying for her children is a loving quality.
  • Those continuously persecuted because of their race or sexual orientation will see this idea as unattainable.
  • “I don’t need to worry,” says the privileged. “I can provide for myself.”
  • But my best friend has clinically diagnosed anxiety…is this possible for her?

Classmates see God’s faithfulness and yet still doubt his promises.

Do not worry…the unavoidable sin.

Worry can occur to anyone… at anytime… in any circumstance. Worry doesn’t care about how much money you have. It doesn’t care how emotionally stable you are. Worry doesn’t even care if you’ve seen the clear work of the Lord in your life. Somehow, we all slip into the fear and anxiety that is ever so present in this fallen world. This phrase of “Do not worry” is meant for us all. We must believe this if we also believe that the Bible is a living word, one that applies in all of time. If you are still in doubt of its applicability, I ask you to listen to this rewrite of Matthew 6:25-34 daring to consider the truth and conviction that lies in this message.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your future, what job you will get or where you will live; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than affirmation of others, and your value more than your achievements? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they don’t plan ahead or work endlessly, and yet your heavenly Father provides. Do you not believe the Lord will provide for you too? 27 What good does worrying do for your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how beautiful my creation is. They have done nothing to earn 29 I tell you that not even the rich in their splendor can be as beautiful as this. 30 If God provides for something as short lived as grass, surely he will provide for his children – destined for eternal glory. Don’t be so preoccupied with getting and respond to God’s giving. Those who don’t know the Lord worry, but you know the Lord, you have a relationship with him. Trust he will provide. Continue in pursuit of the Lord and you’ll see that your needs will be met. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow and look at what the Lord is doing in your life RIGHT NOW. The Lord will walk with you in whatever may come.”

If we desire to overcome the idea of worry, we must first recognize the power and authority we have given it in our life. We must acknowledge that it’s there and it’s present.

Do not worry…the minimized sin.

With the applicability of worry in our lives, comes the temptation to minimize it. The more common something becomes, the more it becomes normality. Take something simple like a fashion trend. We all go through old yearbook photos looking at our clothes and accessories wondering how we ever thought those items were in style. But on that day, for that photo, we truly believed that we looked SO good in comparison to other classmates. Take something more current, like a pop socket for an iphone. In reality, the idea of a pop socket is silly. This object that makes your phone bigger and something you can fidget with. But somehow they truly have become something that’s trendy and cool to have or to own. Even a fidget spinner has become something that is wanted among many students… another object to grab the attention of many middle and high school students. Many today debate on if this object truly provides a way to stay focused for scattered brained individuals or causes more distractions for the focused students.

Have we done the same with worry? Normalizing it, misunderstanding its true purpose? Turning it into something that brings benefit? Do we see worry as a motivator to get tasks done or a way to plan for our future? Have we watched everyone around us worry to the point where it’s become a sin to us that is unattainable to overcome? Somewhere along the line, we’ve discussed and debated over worry so much that we’ve forgotten its impact on our spiritual growth. In verse 32, Jesus tells us the pagans run after these material things. Is our faith really being compared to that of a non-believer? Is worry that distinct to cause a separation between us and the Lord? Have we normalized worry? Have we excused it? Acting as if this, too, wasn’t a sin. Worry at its core is essentially irreligious. It is not caused by external circumstances. It does not come from circumstances but from the heart. Don’t misunderstand me; scripture isn’t calling us to excuse all concern or telling us to live irresponsibly, reckless, or careless only to recognize the separation it can cause between the one thing we were created for….a relationship with the Lord.

Do not worry…the misunderstood sin

All throughout this passage we see a recurring theme of the Lord’s provision in our lives, but what is God actually promising us here?

  • Does he promise a job after college?
  • Does he ensure the affirmation from others?
  • Does he secure for us a life without suffering?

We mustn’t chase after these things acting as if they hold our salvation. Many of us fall into a belief that the Lord can provide, but not for us. Matthew 6 emphasizes the Lords great power, but also stresses that God only guarantees what we need. So how will you respond when the Lord provides but not in the way you had hoped? Will we respond in anger if God provides a necessity that we have assumed is a requirement?

Do not worry…the redeemed sin.

Maybe we’re unable to rid of this sin because in the absence of worry requires the replacement with the love and trust in Christ. Have we had the equation wrong all along? Have we been playing the game wrong? We were never meant to play on the offense against worry, but to defend and understand the Lord’s love.

  • Culture says to worry…Matthew 6 says don’t spend time worrying, for you gain nothing from it.
  • Culture says you must work to be beautiful…Matthew 6 says you don’t earn beauty, you are beauty.
  • Culture says beauty is in the eye of the beholder…Matthew 6 says the Lord is our beholder and to him, nothing is more beautiful
  • Culture says in order to survive you must always look out for yourself…Matthew 6 says the Lord knows and will provide exactly what we need.
  • Culture says pursue what makes you happy…Matthew 6 says seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.

The Lords love is countercultural. Have hope to pursue a God who can provide something as crazy as a life without worry. Such love removes every other concern in scripture. 1 John 4:18 “Perfect love drives out fear” This countercultural love is to be understood and never earned. The love necessary lies in the context of a relationship between our heavenly father and his children. A love that can redeem the sin in us as individuals. A love that can become a dominating power in our lives.

Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow, is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Do not worry: Well known, unavoidable, minimized, misunderstood, redeemed.

Love of Christ: Well known, unavoidable, maximized, understood, and through it worry is redeemed.

 

A 6th Sense

Christianity is like a sixth sense, helping you understand your surroundings if you will. This could be similar to the accustomed smell of home, or the view from your favorite place in nature. Our five senses help us walk with life in a new way, heightening what we think we know of the world, giving us potential new experiences every day. Can you remember the first time you experienced the taste of something, sight of light for the first time, hearing your parents sing you lullabies to sleep, smelling fresh outdoor air, or the calming touch of a mother? It seems so long ago we may have first experienced these things that they become habit, something we just seem to live life with because that’s all we know. But where did the sixth sense come from and how did we find it?

I truly believe when you say yes to Jesus you begin to walk in a new way, in a sixth sense, enabling us to be able to interact and work alongside the Holy Spirit. This sixth sense is like an undiscovered superpower that takes time and practice to perfect. Walking this way opens a new door if you will to a whole new world that we’ve never tapped into. But what does this sense look like to people who don’t know Jesus? What does this look like to people with only five senses?

1 Samuel Chapter 3: 

Then the Lord called Samuel.

Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.

Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”

Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Samuel mistook God’s audible voice for his own fathers because the voice of God was foreign to him. Samuel heard God…….but he didn’t really hear God, did he? Samuel was walking with five senses. How am I any different from Samuel? Where in our lives are we misplacing the works of God? Is it possible that even us too could completely be blind sided by the works of the Holy Spirit?

I kind of see this scenario similar to a large theater production. Writers spend countless hours, days, or months working on a script to which people are casted to play out these roles and intimate moments we enjoy to watch, but when the shows over we give our standing ovations to those in the costumes, not the script writer. Now don’t get me wrong, not everything is like life on a stage. There are many beautiful moments that go unscripted or in the form of improv. I just want to give credit to where credit is due.

Which character is God pulling your heart towards? Eli who helps his son recognize the voice of our heavenly father, or Samuel the man walking with five senses?

And how many senses are you walking with?

 

 

“Girls and guys can never be best friends! It never works!” My friend Emily would say this as if it was the most important thing spoken from the pastor that past Sunday. We would all laugh about it and fight her on it, listing all the best guy friends we had trying to convince her otherwise. Although I was so against the thought of this I had to wonder if I could be wrong and guys and girls really couldn’t be best friends.

This past Sunday I listened to a sermon where it was spoken, “Those who know us the best, love us the most.” We spend so much time trying to hide so many things from the outside world. We hide our past, our pain, our hopes and fears. For some reason we allow a special few to know us inside and out, trusting these people with our hearts… something that is worth protecting.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

We expect those who know us the best to run away. We expect them to be disappointed in our mistakes and were afraid one slip up and well lose all the respect we’ve worked so hard to gain. It seems our “best friend” turns out to be the one closest to us. This person admires us, they support us, they believe and push us in the highs and lows of life.

I have been blessed with many wonderful friends throughout my life. Friends who have seen me at my worst, seen me in my moments of weakness where I let anger, bitterness, and jealousy get the worst of me. These friends have shown me what real love within a friendship should resemble.

You’re here to be a light, bringing out the God colors of the world. Matthew 5: 14 (MSG)

My friends do much more than fill the perfect description of a good friend, they show me a little piece of how God views me. Who do you think knows you the absolute best? I’ll give you a hint…it’s no one on earth! God knows absolutely every detail good and bad about you and loves you even more for it. From someone with experience, don’t miss what’s right in front of you. Don’t fall into the trap of believing the more someone knows the more space you’ll put between the two of you. You’re absolute best friends are a little example of what God’s love should look like. Knowing every detail about you and still loving you even more so every single day.

Everyone’s An Author

We all tend to be drawn to very intense stories with suspenseful characters and suspenseful moments but personally the novel itself always must have a good ending. As I was reading I realized there were many correlations of living a life with Christ and a novel. What kind of person do you want to be as you walk with Christ? How do we live a suspenseful life like these characters in a book? Lastly, What do we make most relevant in our story?

How do we become an interesting character? Many ask the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” This question is asked frequently. I couldn’t count on my fingers the amount of heartbreaking stories I’ve heard from family and friends about trials and tribulations that have affected them in one way or another. If you’re anything like me situations we have or things that happen in our lives cause us to shut down. We realize that feeling so deeply hurts; because of this we attempt to “turn off” these emotions. When this occurs we succeed at feeling less. We aren’t able to feel the true joy of special moments but we sure get out of the feelings of being alone and truly depressed. I’ll ask you a question now, “How do you think this affects your spiritual life?” Do you not think when you do this it also impacts what you feel in your spiritual life?

James chapter 1 verse 12 “For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.”

Like the way that an interesting story draws more people to read it, if we live our life like this our story will draw many to wonder why our lives are so worth living.

What kind of character do you want to be? Most stories have your typical “bad guys” and “good guys.” How do we differentiate the two? We look at their goal. The heroes and villains of stories normally both experience trials but how do they respond to them? What emotions do they harness because of these circumstances? Villains tend to harness anger and live through that and the result is hatred and decisions rooted in evil. Heroes see bad circumstances as an opportunity to help others. They grow up seeing the gaps and look for darkness in order to be a light to it.

“You’re here to be a light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. Matthew 5:14”

If we want to be a hero then we must do this, be a light to the darkness. What does this look like for us?

” Teach with your life. You’ve been raised on the Message of the faith and have followed sound teaching. Now pass on the counsel to the followers of Jesus there, and you’ll be a good servant of Jesus. Exercise daily in God-a disciplined life in God making you fit both today and forever. Keep a firm grasp on your character. 1 Timothy 4”

A hero gains credibility by the way they live. Many know of superman because of the many lives that he’s saved. Our character and the way we live our life we show credibility to who we are in Christ. How is someone supposed to believe in a God who can do anything if we can’t keep a control on our actions or be patient and soft in the way we speak?

What is the point/theme of your story? There are so many types of stories out there. Romance, fiction, mystery, and bibliographies are just a few. If our life were a novel it would probably be under the autobiography section. An autobiography is a novel that you would write about yourself. The next question would be what is the point of your story? What would be the theme of the story be that you’re writing? The theme of the book normally depends on what’s most relevant in a story. What in your life do you make most important or what do you spend the most time on in your life that would contribute to the theme or your novel?

“The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are and not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds. Luke 6:44-45”

We can never get away living a double life eventually those around us will see through our façade. Although we may try to live a typical Christian life if our heart isn’t in the right place it won’t take long to see. What type of story are you going to write for yourself? God has our perfect story written out in the most beautiful novel. Who do you believe is a better author? Will you allow God to guide you in writing your story or will you take the pen and attempt to write what you believe to be a better one.

The Story Of Ruth and Naomi-Viewed with A New Lens

“Where you go I’ll go, where you stay I’ll stay, when you move I’ll move, I will follow you.” A lyric from Chris Tomlin’s song, “I Will Follow.” I loved this song growing up and still hum the tune to this day. From assumption I thought this might have come from Psalms or Proverbs where many lyrical verses or scriptures are found. Did you know this verse comes from the Story of Ruth? A story growing up we assume is about loyalty to family and sacrifice. In truth, this story is a perfect example of redemption and a mother who was able to bring a dear friend/daughter in law to Christ.

As I read the story of Naomi and Ruth with a new pair of eyes two verses stuck out to me that had no significant meaning to me before today. Naomi loses her husband and two sons and both daughters are ready to stay with her and take care of her because she has begun to become weak and age (Miller). Naomi in tears tells her daughters to go home because she has nothing to offer them anymore. Oprah makes the decision to go home and Naomi says, “Your sister in law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her (Ruth Chapter 1).” Wait….so you’re telling me not only did Naomi let her sons marry women who didn’t believe in Christ but then she tells them both to leave to go worship their own gods even though she clearly needs someone to help take care of her in old age. She makes the selfless decision to try and give both girls a happy life and the opportunity to start over.

To fully understand the story to it’s potential we must understand the context of it. Naomi’s husband Elimelech had moved her and their two sons from Bethlehem to Moab to escape a famine. The religions in these two cities were very different. Bethlehem was a place that was sacred when it came to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Moab on the other hand is described as, “heathen, idolatrous, long-standing enemies of God’s people (Hampton).” The decision to move their family across the land caused their religious beliefs to be in the minority, which explains why both sons ended up marrying Moabite women. To have idols was completely normal and I’m sure would have been easy to conform to this religion. I mean how many of us would be the strong Christians we are today is if wasn’t popular or a “cool” thing to do?

Ruth has a special moment I believe is worth taking a closer look at with Naomi. Ruth tells Naomi, “Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God (Ruth Chapter 1).” Not only does she sacrifice a comfortable life but in this moment she confesses that God is her savior and if that’s whom Naomi worships then that’s who she will worship as well. I am so glad I had the opportunity to re-read this beautiful story because here it became clear to me because of Naomi’s kindness and the way she carried herself and I’m sure the influence of her husband (Naomi’s son) that had passed she committed her life to following Christ.

With all of this said what is the take-away for us as a follower of Christ? Is there a bigger story than to just be loyal to your family? What if the story is a depiction of how the loyalty and kindness you display is a stepping-stone to guiding them to a life with Christ. Naomi never imposed her opinion on religion onto her daughter in law’s lives but simply lived the way God would have lived. Because of this, God helped redeem Naomi’s story of her families passing into a true example of love and loyalty and what that can do for the kingdom.

Sources:

Keately, J. Hampton. “5. The Rebellion of the Moabites (2 Kings 3:1-12).” Bible.org. N.p., 8 June 2004. Web. 27 June 2015.

Miller, Amy. “The Story of Ruth and Naomi.” The Story of Ruth and Naomi. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 June 2015.

Ruth Chapter 1.” The Bible. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 340-41. Print. The MessageVersion.

God’s Song

Guys I am super pumped because I decided to read Psalms and I noticed this common theme of story throughout the first 35ish books of Psalms or so. I decided to start writing some phrases that stuck out to me and then also realized I have never written a christian song before and I love to write music. So I want to share with you all my first song I’ve written in a christian aspect. I love it so much because it’s about 80 percent God and 20 percent me. Much of what is in this song is quoted directly from scripture in the message version. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

God’s word is better than a diamond,

better than a diamond between emeralds.

You write the book of hallelujahs and

your name echoes around the world.

Paint your grace on my pages,

in love that’s your common language.

God rewrote the text of my life

when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.

Punctuate my life when I need rest,

We are the birds and you are the nest.

God’s word warns us of danger

and directs us to hidden treasure.

I’m so starved for your affection

your the map to show us direction.

Paint your grace on my pages,

in love that’s your common language.

God rewrote the text of my life

when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.

Punctuate my life when I need rest,

We are the birds and you are the nest.

Nothing you do can change the ending to your story,

it’s not written it’s writing all for God’s glory.

Nothing you do can change the ending to your story,

it’s not written it’s writing all for God’s glory.

Paint your grace on my pages,

in love that’s your common language.

God rewrote the text of my life

when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.

Punctuate my life when I need rest,

We are the birds and you are the nest.

Thank you Papa for letting us be a part of the best book there ever was

And giving us a purpose to your sacrificial cause

Pity the Internal/Punish the External

Over the last few months the topic of sin has come up a lot in my life. More than that, the realization that we as humans put sin on levels and try to decide ourselves whose sin is worse is a common mistake we make. This past summer God really worked in my heart and showed me that unconsciously I was “ranking” people’s sins. When I came to college I assumed that this lesson had been learned and I had accepted my mistake and was going to try to live differently. But God continued to bring this topic back up in my life in many different areas. It wasn’t until Francine Rivers spoke at my universities chapel that I figured out what was left for me to do. God wanted me to be transparent to the world and share with others the realization I had and he wanted me to not be afraid to share my own brokeness with other people. Many times when we find these realizations or hear something that we full heartedly agree with, is meant for ourselves. This lesson and “light bulb moment” I had wasn’t only for me to share with others, but it was meant for myself. I’m not only writing this for everyone whose reading but I’m writing for myself as well as a reminder. I don’t enjoy to display my brokeness on a website for everyone to see but I believe that if God wants me to write about this and be honest with whoever decides to read my posts then God will make something beautiful out of it. So here goes nothing, God put this topic on my heart over the summer and he hit me with what I call “God’s humility hammer” pretty hard.

“I have a special word of caution for you who are sure that you have it all together yourselves and, because you know God’s revealed word inside and out, feel qualified to guide others through their blind alleys and dark nights and confused emotions to God. While you are guiding others, who is going to guide you? I’m quite serious. While preaching, “Don’t steal!” are you going to rob people blind? Who would suspect you? The same with adultery. the same with idolatry. You can get by with almost anything if you front it with eloquent talk about God and his law.” Romans 2:17-24 (MSG)

It hit me like a hurricane to where my tears were the weight of this storm. I was so busy trying to help guide my friends through their life choices that I forgot to have someone to guide me. I lived a life of surface with God and my relationship never grew because I never focused on myself or the problems that faced me. So many times because of the misconception that we’ve been taught we start to think we live a better life with less sin because we have weighed our sins as less that those surrounding us.

So where did these thoughts come from? He hung out with the hated, tax collectors and the sick. So where in our lives did we get this twisted view that we needed to be hanging out with people that were just like us? Growing up a christian environment choosing the right friend group became a topic that was brought up in school and at home. We were told we would end up like those we surrounded ourselves with. Don’t get me wrong it is important to have a close knit group of friends that you can lean on but God’s whole mission was focused on the outsiders and the broken. The people that we judge at school or work are the people God CHOSE TO INVEST IN. Why have we created this wall of good people verses bad and what made up the wall that divides us? Who decided what is good and what is bad?

“I’ll call nobodies and make them sombodies; I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved. In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!” they’re calling you “God’s living children.” -Romans 9:20-33 (MSG)

The divider that was created I believe has something to do with pitying the internal problems and punishing the external problems. This concept was implanted into my brain in high school. The way the disciplinary system works those who are caught maybe smoking, or drinking are immediately dealt with and most likely suspended or even expelled depending on the issue. But maybe some girls who are struggling with self image issues are maybe helped through counseling or are dealt with in a very humble manner. How did I figure this conception out? Because I was that girl. Senior year I was the girl who hated the way she looked and didn’t like anything she saw in the mirror. The one who hated buying clothes because having to buy certain sizes just made me feel fat. I bought into the lie that I was still striving to be sinless in the broken world. God showed me once I arrived at school through friends and christian novels that if we were made in God’s image then I was just hating the creation that God made himself. I was just as much at fault with sin as anyone else. Throughout this experiance I became very humbled and through scripture I was able to find truth and see through the clouded vision I grew up with.

“Basically all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners.” -Romans 3: 9-20 (MSG)

I was just the same as everyone else. Who am I to start looking down on others for mistakes that they make when I was making plenty of them myself? This is not an easy concept to grasp and I didn’t enjoy coming to terms with this because it is hard. I wanted to believe I was a good person and didn’t make any mistakes but we all make mistakes guys, were human. We all fall short of the glory of God so why are we making scales of whose sin is greater? What would the world look like if we started hanging around those that maybe aren’t viewed as your “typical christian.” If these imaginary wall between two groups of people came crashing down. Maybe we would start focusing on grace instead of judgement. 

“But sin didn’t and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin verses grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the messiah, invites us into life – a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.” -Romans 5: 20-21 (MSG)

Our purpose on earth isn’t to judge and try to find good friends or maybe do a few good deeds. Our purpose is to spread the gospel to whomever, whenever. Maybe as a christian community(including myself) we should start focusing on our true purpose on earth and not get so rattled by weighing the sins of others and comparing everyone to each other. We shouldn’t be evaluating the mistakes we make but the hearts of the people. Some mistakes are “broadcasted more than others” so let’s start checking our own hearts before we go about checking others. This has been one of the hardest lessons and a big humility step for me. I know that I will always have to wake up every morning and decide I am going to try to live a christian life and every day, month, or year I will continue to learn new lessons about the ways of God. Sometimes I know I will fall short and make plenty of mistakes every day but knowing that God’s at the bottom with open arms and his love and grace to catch me if I fall makes the crash-landing a bit softer.