As long as I live there will be something worth fighting for, worth writing for, and worth dying for.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Is There Still Hope?

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

I wrestled the other morning with the concept of prayer. For the past month, I have prayed for a young man from our youth group who suddenly faced a battle with cancer. A malignant form of cancer that I have come to name, "Little Monster." A tumor the size of a basketball in his chest and he is only eighteen. Tonight, he is dying.

At the beginning, the prayer came easy: "Dear God, please help Daniel to beat this. Give him a miracle." For while, it seemed that that prayer would be answered. There was hope. He was improving.

But then things changed, and again, we prayed earnestly for a miracle. It wasn't until earlier this week (Wednesday to be precise) that I woke up realizing, "I am praying the wrong prayer." I struggled all day with how exactly prayer fits in with the sovereign will of God. If I pray, will it honestly change His mind? Can I pray hard enough for something to happen? What is the point of prayer? If I pray a certain way is that demonstrating doubt or faith?

At youth group that night, a lesson was given on prayer, but not on the aspect I was struggling with. So, I wrestled and wrestled and decided on my own study and discussion. Can we honestly pray the wrong prayer?

I remember election day 2008. In the days proceeding, my sister called to tell me that my grandfather would not stop ranting and raving about the election. "How could Barack be president?!?! How could God let this happen? I fasted. I prayed. I had people fasting and praying that this wouldn't happen. How could this happen? What did I do wrong?"

I've come to the conclusion that prayer isn't about changing God's mind. It is about changing our hearts. When we pray, I believe it helps us realize our position before God. First off, prayer must be taught. In Luke's account of the Lord's Prayer (Luke 11), Jesus is asked to teach the disciples how to pray. We don't have to be taught to be selfish or to tell people how we feel. Therefore, we can assume that if something comes naturally, it does not need to be taught. Prayer does not come naturally, because true prayer, is humbling yourself before the throne of an Almighty God. You wouldn't just go waltzing into the White House, stroll into the Oval Office and say, "Hey! Prez! Whazzup!" You would be shot. Instead, you learn to approach with the respect demanded by the position. Prayer is about realizing where we stand with God.

Prayer is also about realizing how dependent we are on God. If you recall the Lord's Prayer, used often as a prayer model, it starts off praising God, then asking for His will, then asking for His provision, then asking for His forgiveness, then asking for His guidance and then for His deliverance. Prayer is all about Him! Life is all about Him.

So, what is the point of prayer? I, personally, have come to believe that prayer is a part of our worship. It is a vital part of our personal relationship with God. It is when we share our hearts (which He already knows) with Him. It is while in an attitude of true prayer that we humble ourselves to His will and enter His workshop, where He can mold us, and form us into vessels fit for Him.

When He tells us to pray for our enemies it is to teach us temperance.
When He tells us to pray for those that despise us it is to teach us agape love.
When He tells us to pray for laborers it is to open our eyes to the needs of the world. (We are the laborers).
When He tells us to pray so that we do not enter temptation, He is reminding us that our flesh is weak.
When He tells us to pray for our needs, He is reminding us that He is the Provider.

Life is about God. Prayer is about God. No one figured that out more than Job. Look at his life. If anyone had a reason to ask why, it was Job. He lost everything, and I mean everything. His faith stayed strong and he cried out asking why. God answered by telling Job about Himself. God never gave Job a reason. In fact, He pretty much told Job that He didn't have to have a reason. He gave Job a little taste of His glory as His way of saying, "Trust Me." Reasonless isn't the same as hopeless. We have a hope. Our hope is found in Christ.

So, what is the right prayer to pray? Well, don't sweat it too much, because that verse in Romans 8 tells us that the Spirit knows how to pray for us and that He will fill in the blanks when we just can't figure out what to say. But if you look at the end of the verse, it says according to the will of God. See, God has a will and a plan, and sometimes, even our prayers are prayed in opposition to that plan. When we focus so much on a result, we lose hope.

A friend and I discussed this yesterday morning. We think that many Christians are disappointed because they come to God with orders, not faith. I love the approach of Job: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" and the Old Testament characters of Shadrach, Meshach and Obednego: "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."

It may sound like doubt, but I think faith lies in saying, "God, this is the desire of my heart, but nevertheless, Your will be done." Isn't that how Jesus prayed in the garden? He prayed earnestly that the cup would be taken from Him. That He wouldn't have to suffer Calvary, but then He said, "nevertheless, Thy will be done." See, it isn't about us, and if God said, "Yes" to every fervent prayer we would be without a salvation.

So, can we pray the wrong prayer? I think we can have the wrong focus when we pray. If we pray for a specific result without leaving room for God to do what He wants, we have raised our expectations and murdered hope. His goal in all things is to work in our lives. He wants to do something with us. If we keep focusing on a physical result we miss that. Prayer becomes nothing more than a petition to the Most High- sign on the dotted line and if enough people pray, it might happen. Just like my grandfather and the election, when our requests aren't answered, our hopes are dashed to the ground.

However, hope is never lost when we focus on Christ. When we ask for His will to be done, when we ask for His strength, we can be certain we will receive both. We just can't dictate His will. He has a plan for others and for us. Those blueprints were laid long before the foundation of time. Prayer isn't meant to change those, it is meant to change us. When faced with trial, we need to pray for strength to go through the trial and for patience to learn what He is working in us. That continued work in us is what gives us hope.

"From glory and glory He is changing me, His likeness and image to perfect in me, the love of God shown to the world."

Friday, November 21, 2008

God's Testing Me, I Just Know It!

Ever have one of those days where you pray for something, "God, increase my patience" or something of the sort, and soon you come to realize that when the Spirit communicated that prayer He must have said, "God, test her patience."

With everything happening with Daniel, then my grandparents... now this. God is testing me for something. I don't know if I'm passing or failing, but I know I am learning. See, this evening, for the second time this year, my kitchen caught on fire. Mind you, it was not on purpose, and it doesn't help that there is no smoke detector in our kitchen.

My brother and I were downstairs playing Halo (yes, I play, but only with my brothers) when I smelled this awful smell. It was a nauseating, 'hot' smell (like something plastic was burning). I assumed it was coming from the laundry room since my mother had just come down from upstairs (so, of course, it couldn't be from upstairs). I went into the laundry room and it wasn't there. So then I was confused and thought my computer was fritzing. I had this puzzled look on my face, turned to my mother and said, "Do you smell that?"

To which she replies, "I smelled something burning upstairs but couldn't figure out what it was."

"Like burning burning? Upstairs upstairs (where our bedrooms are) or upstairs (the main level)?"


"You smelled something burning?"

Suddenly, realization dawned on her face. She turned white as a sheet and I beat them both up the stairs. I whipped around the corner to see orange light dancing on our kitchen wall. I ran into the kitchen, saw a tower of flame and ran from the house to the van (where our fire extinguisher is supposed to be) yelling, "Fire! Fire!"

I grabbed the keys to the van on my way out the door, neglecting the fact that it is nearly freezing outside. I ran across the ground in my pjs and bare feet, ripped open the back of the van and literally jumped in.

Justin and I tore apart the van to no avail. The dumb thing is supposed to be in there. By the time we got back in the house, we discovered that our very resourceful mother had found something to smother the source of the fire and had taken the wooden knife block which was also on fire, and had thrown it in some dishwater that was left in the sink.

All doors and windows are open now. The upstairs upstairs is filled with this beautiful white smoke. I can't go to bed right now, simply because my bedroom will kill me. We have discovered that our fire alarms do not have batteries... we found that strange. They work, but they must be electric. However, we know now that they do not automatically call the fire department which is what we were afraid. Justin ripped the cover off one and we just stood there staring at this screaming piece of metal. It isn't even a normal fire alarm it doesn't do the "Beep Beep" it is almost like a school recess bell, this loud grinding sound. I wanted to shoot it. We also discovered that our bedroom windows do not open and that our house sucks in cold air really well.

I find this all comical actually. Maybe it's the fumes. We are all a little tipsy right now :-D I looked at the black wall in our kitchen, then down at my cell phone, which is riddled with messages on Daniel, and could not help but think, "God is testing me, I just know He is!"

Somehow, life is so much easier to take from that perspective :-D

Count it all joy

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I had a revelation today. A revelation regarding politics and the election. One of my students and I were talking earlier today about who I was going to vote for. My honest answer, "Honestly, I don't like either one of them, but I feel one is much better than the other. The thing you have to realize is that people are imperfect and all politicians are liars. None of them deliver all that they promise and each of them will screw up." I don't have a positive outlook on politics, I guess.

Tonight, my mother and I were driving home after stopping by California Tortilla so we could sport our "I Voted" stickers and get free tacos :-) As we waited in traffic on the wet pavement, I said, "All politics has become is 'don't vote for that guy.' Neither states why I should vote for him, instead, they spend all of their time bashing the other person into the groud. Like a bunch of immature junior highers. If you want to change something, you get up there and you tell me what you want to do. You tell me what your plans are. You tell me why I should pick you, not why I shouldn't pick the other guy. It just becomes a bunch of mud-slinging and if everyone starts slinging mud, what do you end up with? One big mess."

At any rate, I have been following the election tonight, watching as states turn funny colors and grow stripes. I watch as numbers go back and forth as predictions are proven not-so-accurate. A video link crossed the side of my screen. A video of children singing a song to Obama. In the middle a video was spliced of German children singing a song about Hitler. I know what the implication is.
The song goes:

"We're gonna spread happiness. We're gonna spread freedom. Obama's gonna change it. Obama's gonna lead em. He's gonna change it, and rearrange it. Obama's gonna change the world!"

The 'that's life' part of me wants to say, "Hate to break it to you kid, but no one can make people happy. And as far as spreading freedom... what do you think we are doing in Iraq?"

But as I watched the video end, I saw people's faces and I realized something. These people are searching. That is why 'change' sounds so good, because everything else we've tried hasn't worked. Funny thing is, it never will. In four years, we will face this scenario again. Parties will point fingers blaming each other for all of the downfalls of the presidency and then claiming all the victories. We do this every four years. We will never find a president everybody likes. People are searching... and they will never find what they are looking for in a man.

That realization nearly broke my heart. Those people in that video are frustrated. They are searching and probably sick and tired of not getting what they want. It doesn't matter what is going to change, as long as something is going to change. As long as someone promises life, love, and the pursuit of happiness, they find some kind of hope. But, within four years, that hope will have died.

Politics-- a search for Christ. I never really thought of it that way. In reality, that is what people are looking for. A leader who will be just, and honest. Who is not able to be bribed, who truly cares about them. A leader who will protect, and provide. Who will punish those who deserve punishment but extend grace to those who are repentent. One who promises joy and can provide. One who promises to fulfill our needs and does...abundantly.

Sound familiar? Funny, that sounds like my God, and we won't find Him here, running for president of our nation. long as you live and breathe. As long as you walk the face of this earth and have fallible man in leadership, rest assured your leadership will be fallible. Rest assured that dreams promised will not come true.

I go to bed tonight with a fair certainty that tomorrow, there will be a man packing up to move to the White House. A man that I don't want to live in that White House. I go to bed with a fair certainty that, over the next four years, our nation will change drastically. My rights will be pressed, my freedoms challenged, my faith persecuted. But most of all, I go to bed with 100% certainty of this:

Whoever is announced the 'winner' is only the 'winner' because God allowed him to be the 'winner.' My God is in control- period. No man in that White House can ever change that. And, when January 2009 rolls around, my God will not change. He will never change. He has always been, is, and will always be the one True God, the One True Answer, Holy, Just, Merciful, Gracious, Loving, Giving, Caring, Faithful, Sovereign, Almighty, Jehovah, Adonai, Jehovah Jireh, My Provider, the Everlasting God, the Lord of the Armies, the Kinsman Redeemer, the Spotless Lamb, the Beautiful One, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, my Saviour, my Creator, my Sustainer, my Peace, my Comfort, my Strength, my Shield, my Fortress, my Shelther, my Loving Father, my Portion forever...

So tell me, Mr President, what job is left for you?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm Back!

To start, I find this fairly amusing. I visited my Facebook today and clicked on the link for this page and Facebook blocked it, saying it had been identified as a malicious site... Say what?

At any rate, I apologize to those of you who actually come here. Life has been busy and there is no excuse. Lord willing, my writing deficiency is over and I will start writing here again.

Two things I want to cover today, and then tomorrow we will begin the 'devotions' (see item 2).

Item 1: Surrender.

Christians hear this word alot. It riddles our hymnals and rings from our pulpits. It speaks of sacrifice, of giving up our hopes and dreams, of carrying our cross and denying ourselves. All very true points of surrender. The aspect I would like to discuss is the surrender that just says, "I am willing."

Surrender doesn't always involve a specific thing we are called to release. Sometimes it involves simply being willing to be used. This is the attitude of surrender. I am willing to be used and if I am willing to be used then when God asks me to 'surrender' something, my heart will have already surrendered it.

More than that, I believe God rewards the attitude of surrender. For a good year or so, I have gone back and forth with my writing. It's not that I don't love to write. I could write until the cows come home. It's the fact that I just can't see my writing ever reaching beyond my blogs and an occassional published piece of poetry. So, I get scared, scared of being used. Stupid when you think of it, but the honest to goodness truth.

I feel peace only when I have a moment of brokenness and I say, "Ok, God, this is Your call, not mine. If you want to use my words, they are Yours." When, I do that, things happen. The first time I did that, this blog was noticed out of nowhere by my youth pastor and is used as a discipleship tool for the girls in my youth ministry.

Then I decided I no longer wanted to be used in that arena. I took control of my words and my ministry suffered. When I surrendered again, I was asked to write devotionals for the youth group. Just tonight I was able to pick the courses I would like to edit for the Setting Captives Free ministry.

Has anything changed? Not really. Have I suddenly become a better writer? No, certainly not. Have I had to give up writing? No. I just had to be willing to be used. Believe me, it is harder than it looks and I struggle with it every day.

Every morning when we get up, we have a choice to make. We can either say, "God, this is Your day" or "This is my day." Every decision we make we can say, "God, just use me however You choose" or we can say, "I like this choice, so I want to go with that one." Day by day, moment by moment seeking the will of God. That is surrender.

Item 2: The Psalms.

Writing devotions for my youth group started as part of a 30 Media fast. They just haven't stopped and the 30 days is well since over. Yet, I love it, because it challenges me to search Scripture.

A couple days ago I was really struggling with what to do for devos. I wanted something to challenge the young people to search the Scriptures for themselves. I opened to Psalms and an idea popped in my mind. In keeping with that idea, I will begin to cover the Promises and Principles in the Psalms. There are lots and lots of Psalms so please know that this might take a while!! :D I am very excited to do this study. I have never done it before. I have challenged the youth to go through each Psalm and highlight the verses that refer to God in one color and the verses about our actions in our relationship to God in another color. In the end, we should have a neat picture of who God is and how we can better relate to Him. I am super excited.

So that is what will be happening on here. I will do my best to make it daily, but can make no promises. I really hope that you will join us for this study. It should be good... isn't God's word always?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Before A Fall...

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18

Remind me of that verse, because, apparently I forget it... often. Ever had an early Halloween? You know, one of those days that you are just enjoying life, minding your own business. Your bodies have been buried, so to speak, and there is a knock on the door. Being the pompous hard head you are, you forget to see who it is first, and open the door.

Behold, one of the aforementioned bodies, now rotten and decaying but seemingly stronger than ever, stands before you. And you, in all your pride, are now shocked to the point of no movement. The unwelcomed guest then promptly kicks down the door and barges into your house, makes his way to the fridge, grabs a soda and settles in on your couch... great. The next 24 hours well be devoted to how to get him off your sofa and out of the house.

That has been my day today. A skeleton just busted into my house and I let him trash it, and I, frankly, am so disgusted with myself I could throw up. It has been tempting numerous times throughout today. Conviction-- which tells me I still have a spiritual pulse, but no fun, regardless. My 'house' now reeks and it will take me another two months to rid it of this stench, and the temptation grows to want to find the nearest closet and lock myself in for a while.

See, Christians mess up, we really do. I mess up more often than I care to admit. There have been times when I've wondered if I'm throwing some kind of reunion to catch up with my past life. The invitation is usually the spirit of, "I got this. I got it made."

People like to make me out to be bigger than what I am. I have been thrust into the spotlight, and there are times that I have thrust myself there. I've have been told I am strong and there are times I make myself strong when I really am so weak. I am so small...if there is any greatness or beauty in me, it is because of Him. I forget that; people forget that. So, I skip a couple days of devotions, after all, I got this. I call up some old friends (figuratively speaking), after all, I got this. I wander back into the world just to take a look around because, after all, I got this. Next thing I know, there is an unwanted pest in my home and I suddenly realize "Idiot, you don't got this."

I love music. I love literary arts, of which music is one (in my opinion) and there are so many songs that are fitting for this moment in my life right now.

Stained Glass Masquerade, by Casting Crowns

Is there anyone that fails? Is there anyone that falls? Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small?
Cause when I take a look around everybody seems so strong. I know they'll soon discover that I don't belong.

So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay. If I make them all believe it, maybe I'll believe it too. So with a painted grin, I play the part again so everyone will see me the way that I see them.

Or I wish by Point of Grace

I wish I didn't feel so helpless. Wish I didn't act so selfish. Wish I didn't wring my hands night and day... I wish I wouldn't hide what's been going on inside. And I wish you wouldn't get scared and run away...wish I was doing better with all the things that matter. Guess I got some learning to do...

So, what's the answer? Well, at this point, I could easily go up to my room and pound on something until I hurt my hand. I've spent most of today under a heavy burden of guilt and frustration. I have shed tears and I have pounded stuff. I've cleaned, to the point of scrubbing our walls (I clean when I am upset). In the end though, He is my only answer. He is my only hope.

On My Own, Barlow Girl

I can't believe that I'm here in this place again. How did I manage to mess up one more time? This pattern seems to be the story of my life, should have learned this lesson by the thousandth time.

'Cause I promise myself I wouldn't fall but here I've fallen. I guess I'm not as strong as I thought; all I can do is cry to You!

Oh, God You have to save me; You're my last and only hope. All my right answers fail me. I can't seem to make it on my own

I always thought that I would be strong enough. What made all of them fall couldn't take me down. Why did I think that I was above it all? I have learned that pride comes before the fall.

I can't promise that I won't fall, 'Cause here I've fallen. I know I'm not as strong as I thought. All I can do is cry to You.

Can I be completely honest with you? (Of course I can, this is my blog). I struggle with self-worth, a lot. Not so much self-esteem, but self-worth. You might sit there and tell me that there is no difference. I believe there is.

I have struggled with that for... forever. That is the one sole thing that kept me from salvation for so long. I didn't feel worthy of love. There are days (like today) that I still don't. That has been a major focus of mine for the past few months. God is still working on me in that area.

You know what is amazing about God, He still loves me. Even when I don't feel loveable, He still loves me.

We are not strong outside of His grace. I wish I would stop forgetting that.

Friday, August 8, 2008

When Everything Fell...

People are under a very common misconception that bad things never happen to Christians. We take the whole 'soaring on wings like eagles' and make it mean that we will sail through life, problem free. Note the word 'misconception.'

The Christian is not immune from trial. In fact, being a Christian sometimes makes us more prone to go through them. Trusting God is just that, trusting. A follower of Christ faces trials with the belief in the truth that this trial will bring about a divine purpose far above our own.

Today, after work, I received word that one of my dear friends is being deported. Deported. That he was taken by authorities and is being held miles upon miles away, facing immediate deportation to his 'motherland.'

My heart stopped and I think I forgot to breathe for a few minutes. Deported. This a man who just weeks ago was right there with me when I was struggling with the possibility of malignant cancer. This is a man who pours his heart and soul into the ministry, into serving God. He would give the shirt off his back in a heart beat. One of the kindest hearts I know. A man who, just this past Wednesday, handed me a volleyball basics book that he got a couple years ago. You just last Friday was out on the court with me breaking in the volleyball team.

To say that I am still in shock might be a tad bit of an understatement. I'm in disbelief and it really is one of those moments when my flesh wants to thrust a fist toward Heaven and question the intentions of an Almighty God. To picture, in my mind, this brother in Christ being drug away like a common criminal, and isolated from contact with those of us who love him dearly. It breaks my heart.

It makes me run to God.

I learn every time a big trial hits that I don't have to know why. Sometimes it would be nice to know though, wouldn't it? It would be nice if I came home from work and read that email and found a new one in my box that was from my Creator telling me exactly what He plans on doing. That isn't how faith works. That is how faith is worked in us.

There is a reason. It is completely beyond me at this point what exactly that reason could be. It seems unwise to rip the rug out from under a developing youth ministry. To pull the best audio visual guy from a newly-budding audio visual ministry. Seems a little bizarre to me. A lot of things don't make sense to me. What does though, is trust. I know I can trust a God who has never ever ever failed-- ever. He knows, He is in control and He cares. Above all that, there is a reason.

"Late at night I wonder why, sometimes I wonder why. Sometimes I'm so tired I don't even try. Seems everything around me fails but I hold on to the promise
that there is a reason.

Late at night, the darkness makes it hard to see the history of the saints who've gone in front of me. Through famine, plague and disbelief His hand was still upon them 'cause there is a reason. There is a reason.

He makes all things good. He makes all things good. There's a time to live and a time to die, a time for wonder and to wonder why cause there is a reason. There is a reason.

I believe in a God who sent His only son to walk upon this world and give His life for us. With blood and tears on a long, dark night we know that He believed that there is a reason. There is a reason.

For the lonely nights, and broken hearts, the widow's mite in the rich man's hand, and the continent whose blood becomes a traitor-

For the child afraid to close their eyes, the prayers that seem unanswered
There is a reason. There is a reason. "
~There is a Reason, by Caedmon's Call from OverDressed.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Up Go the Defenses

Parakaleo-- that, my friends, I truly believe is my spiritual gift. I know you all are looking at me like, "Uhhh, Jessica, that word isn't even in my Bible." Wrong. It is. The word is Greek, and is translated as exhorting in English.

We have been studying Spiritual Gifts in Sunday School. It has been an interesting study. Over the years, my thoughts on the spiritual gifts have been all over the place, lacking direction and application. The material that has been presented over the past two Sundays has absolutely captured my attention. I have finally had the gifts presented to me in a practical and Biblically-back manner. After yesterday's lesson, I believe I have the gift of exhortation.

to come along side of someone with words of encouragement, comfort, consolation, and counsel to help them be all God wants them to be

The special ability God gives some to help strengthen weak, faltering, and fainthearted Christians in such a way that they are motivated to be all God wants them to be.

The ability to help others reach their full potential by means of encouraging, challenging, comforting, and guiding.

The divine enablement to present truth so as to strengthen or urge to action those who are discouraged or wavering in their faith.

People with this gift:
- come to the side of those who are weak in spirit to strengthen them
- challenge or confront others to trust and hope in the promises of God
- urge others to action by applying Biblical truth
- offers advise, an outline for a solution, or a program for progress
- motivates others to grow.

Jessica's number one passion in life: driving others to be all that God wants them to be, whether by encouragement or rebuke.

Jessica's number one problem in life: being on the other end of this action.

I was talking with an old college roommate tonight. I had received a message from a friend earlier in the day that we 'needed to talk.' Given recent actions of mine, which I know were wrong, I have a humungous hunch that our conversation, which will take place in 48 hours, will have a few akward moments. I am already akward and I don't even know for certain that we will be discussion the above-mentioned sins I committed toward this person. For me, it's like being sent to my room and told to stare at the four walls and "Wait till your dad gets home." The thought runs through my mind, "Do I have to wait?!? Why can't we just end this now. Slap me across the wrist; ground me; get it over with." (You should have seen me in high school when I got sent to the principal's office once by some control-hungry substitute teacher. You'd a thought I just got shot).

I am getting better, I think. It is still hard to be on the other end of confrontation though. For me, it is more shame that I should have known better to begin with, even embarrassment over a temporary spiritual "duh moment." But, through experience, I have found it is so easy to put up our defenses. It's like we are going into court. We gather up our arguments, our witnesses, our testimonies, our excuses and do 'mock scenarios' over and over again, fielding every accussation and barracading every weakness. You know what?

Confrontation is not a bad thing. It isn't the most comfortable thing in the world, but it is not a bad thing. The exhorter that I may be, I still have faults. And the exhorter that I may be, I can tend to be oblivious to those faults. It runs along the lines of "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye." I just run my course, until all of the sudden, someone throws a mirror in front of my face. I look at it and think, "Who on earth is that?!" That's when the fellow Christian comes along and says, "Jessica, that's you." Ouch.

It's uncomfortable, because we each like to think that we are perfect (yes, you do, don't lie). But that is exactly the reason that we need people to confront us, to challenge us, so that we can become more like Him. I love Hebrews 3:13.

But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

I can't imagine being exhorted daily, but God's word tells us to. Why? To prevent us from becoming hardened to sin. See sin doesn't march into your life wearing a sleazy outfit and a nametag that says, "Hi! My name is sin, and I am here to ruin your life." Most Christians spot those sins and avoid them rather easily. It's the tricky little ones that get us. It's the little spots on our face: the proud look, a quick tongue (guilty) or, my personal downfall, quick to react (too quick). I can go days lighting into people before finally someone stands up and says, "Jessica, this isn't cool!" I have totally missed it. While dodging all of the big bad bullies and avoiding the alleys, I have been infected by this little tick of a sin. It is important, yay, even necessary for someone else to come up to me and say, "Jessica, you know that you have this problem, right? You know that it's affecting your relationship with God and with other people, right?"

It's good for me. It is good for me to get that out of my life. No, it isn't comfortable, but it is pointless to try and defend it. Sin is not your friend and your friends are not bullies (at least they shouldn't be). The body of Christ was constructed to edify and encourage one another, even groom one another to become more like Christ. I have friends in my life who are willing to put the comfort of our relationship at stake for the sake of my spiritual walk. Those are HUGE blessings. They care! They love you that much.

So, next time someone looks at you and says, "Ummm...we need to talk." Put the briefcase away and leave the defenses down. Let your friends be Christ to you. Let them show you areas in your life that you need to change and then take action to change them. Treat them with respect, because one day, you may need to do the same for them.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Breath of Salvation

"This is what the soul must feel at the moment of redemption." That is what I have been thinking since about noon today. To recap, last Friday, I went into visit my doctor to renew some prescriptions. Through the course of our visit, she found two masses, one in my throat, the other near my right arm, in my breast. She sent me for bloodwork and ultrasounds. I had the ultrasounds today.

This past week has been a trial and a half. I have learned much that I overlooked before. I have learned the beauty of everyday. The miracle of life. The gift of Godly friends and the power of Christ.

Today, I explained everything to the ultrasound tech and in 15 minutes she had both ultrasounds completed. My brain was whirring because she had spent, what seemed to me, a significant portion of time focusing on the right side of my neck. She excused herself to go discuss my tests with the radiologist. I sat there on the bed thinking, "This is it! This is it! I just know it. This is bad news. Why is she taking so long? They must be calling the specialists. They are probably calling a doctor. She hasn't turned the machine off, they must want to do further tests."

She came back in the room and said to me, "I have talked with the radiologist. We really have no idea why your doctor sent you here.
We can't find anything at all in either place. Your thyroid is perfectly normal. There is nothing here to be concerned about. You are fine, you are healthy,
have a great day, kid."

I think I screamed for joy. I can't remember. I know that I was nearly relieved to the point of tears. I thanked her, told her she had just made my day and left the office.

If I knew how, I could have cartwheeled all the way to work. I practically ran through the doors of the office and told my coworker. She about screamed for me. My aunt, the doubting Thomas that she is, took a little more convincing. But I remember thinking, "This is how redemption feels."

We, in our sinful state, stand on the edge of a death sentence. All we are waiting for is judgement day to tell us to take ourselves and our sins to the deepest pits of hell for eternity. We are hopeless. But then God, in all of His love and in all of His glory, when we believe in who He is, in what He has done for us and rely on Him, we find ourselves alive. Not only alive but cleansed! There is no trace of what once was. He removes it all, leaving us free to live an abundant life. That is the power of grace, and I am loving every minute of it!

Thank you all so much for your prayers. I have learned lessons that I pray I never forget. Our lives truly are not forever, and we indeed, are not invincible. But God, God is ever faithful. He is mighty to save!

Thursday, July 24, 2008


In twelve hours I will be sitting in a waiting room, preparing to undergo approximately an hour of ultrasound tests. What a way to spend a Friday! :-D

I've said it a million times and I am sure I will say it a couple million more: I am so grateful for Godly friends. Friends that have the right perspective. At work, the attitude is, "Oh, that stinks, man, I am sure glad I am not you." It is amazing to see that contrasted to the body of Christ. The Christlike friends I know have come around me and encouraged me. They have seen a better perspective, a more excellent purpose.

I was talking with a friend tonight, and she started laughing. I looked at her like she grew three heads (not that she already had two) and was thinking to myself, "Ummm...OK. What is so funny?" Get this. She was laughing because the thought had danced across her mind that I might meet my future husband through this trial. Random, yes. That's why I love her :-D

Truth is, I have put a lot of my dreams on hold. I'm not afraid to admit that. What once seemed like a major priority: finding a husband, raising a family, has paled in comparison to my calling to live for Him. In all honesty, it is hard to dream when you know that there is a pretty good chance that those dreams will never come true.

In all reality, that's how we all should live our lives though. You never know when your time is up. Car accidents, heart attacks and freak accidents kill people every day. People who had dreams. Now they have no tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a big day for me. It's HUGE. But my God's hands are bigger, and He holds tomorrow.

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. James 4:14

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matthew 6:33-34

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Someone Else's Isaac

I'm writing this during a fairly impressive thunderstorm. We'll see if it makes it to the finish without me having to restart my computer :-)

Tonight, I had a brief but deep conversation with a friend at church. She looked at me point blank and asked, "What do you think when you think about what might happen?" That's a tough question.

She went on to say that I have always wanted to be the next Jim Elliot. I have been wracking my brain for the last two hours trying to figure out when on earth I told her that. It is true; I have always wanted to live a life that impacted the world, a life of complete surrender. For me that probably doesn't include learning a foreign language and traipsing into a spear-bearing crowd. Sacrifice looks different for everyone.

The thought occurred to me on the way home tonight, "Am I willing to be someone else's Isaac?" The sacrifice that must take place in order to 'prove' one's faith.

For years, I have prayed for the faith of my family, that they would grasp God. That they would truly KNOW Him. Nothing has seemed to work, and I remember once praying, "God whatever it takes. I would die if I knew that it would bring them closer to you." We both smiled tonight when I told her that this isn't quite what I expected.

To be truthful, my outlook on my future has changed a lot over the past five days. I suddenly realize that we really aren't promised tomorrow. It's funny, you hit 21 and think you are invincible. You're not. I'm not, and every time I feel the catch in my neck or the ache under my arm I am reminded of how UN-invincible I am. But He holds tomorrow. I could easily get in a serious accident and have the whole thing be over with. Only He knows.

"If my life is going to change, I am going to change someone else's with it." I said that, and she remembered it. That is truth.

I don't know if that change would include death at this point. She and I talked about that. I told her that for all I know, I could just have pain that I will have to live with for the rest of my life. They could just be cysts that are going to drive me bonkers for forever, but I would be a fool to not consider what is possible.

My life has changed, and it will continue to change. These past few days have ignited a passion unlike any I have ever known. It is easy to give up your dreams when you don't think you will have time for them anyway. I have seen what my priorities are and what they should be. May the outcome of these tests never change that perspective. I live, not for myself, but for the glory of God.

I think back to two dear friends I have lost in the last 4 years, both 22. Darcy and Josh. Darcy had 'all of her dreams.' She was married to an amazing man, a preacher. They were out on ministry singing and were killed instantly in a fiery crash. Josh was on the brink of all of his dreams. He was engaged to be married, ready to enter training to be a local church missionary. He fought cancer for a year, until it took him. Both have majorly impacted my life. They have been Isaacs to me. Willing servants of the Most High, who were obedient to His leading, whose deaths changed my faith.

If my death meant that just one teenager caught on fire for God, would I go willingly? Am I willing to be Isaac for someone else?

See God Through This

I got my bloodwork back today. It says I am normal (scientific proof for those of you who doubted). My mother and I aren't quite sure if the result is cause for rejoicing or concern. Being normal means that this mass in my throat is not my thyroid, which could be a bad thing. He is still in control. I appreciate all of your prayers.

These past few days have been a bit of a trial. I must say that they have strengthened my faith to a level I could have never before imagined. I went into the mindset of "Look at this through God." I would cry, often. People asked me if this was 'scary.' My answer, "Umm...yeah, it is."

In the last day or two, my perspective has changed to "Look at God through this." See, God doesn't change, and focusing on Him puts my current woes in a much different light. Certainly, uncertainty is still scary. It is not the most comforting of states, but I am in the most comforting of places. I have 'survived' since Sunday. No tears. Not because I am trying to be strong, but because He has given me a strength that I do not understand.

My ultrasounds are on Friday. We will certainly know more then. Most assuring is that He already knows. I appreciate your continued prayers. I am indebted to you all.

Life goes on as normal. I have MOCOYOGRO tonight, volleyball tomorrow and an all-day volleyball tournament on Saturday, church on Sunday and start the whole thing all over again :-)

I wanted to share this thought of the day, though. I found it on an old piece of scrap paper from college. It was lying on our bathroom sink this morning. I have no clue how it got there. It is a quote from Charles Spurgeon:

Those who navigate little streams and shallow creeks, know but little of the God of tempests; but those who 'do business in great waters', these see His wonders in the deep. Among the huge Atlantic waves of bereavement, poverty, temptations and reproach, we learn the power of Jehovah, because we feel the littleness of man.

And this I pray, to see God through this. Father, show me Your glory.

Monday, July 21, 2008

From whence cometh my help.

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. "
Psalms 121

I am fully convinced that all men with Bachelor of Divinity degrees are psychic. (I am joking, obviously). Do you ever have moments like that though? You step into church, struggling with something, and as you listen to the message you are thinking, "Who told him! Who told him that I was struggling with this?" Answer: God. I don't think I'll hold it against Him.

This past Sunday morning, I sat in morning service. It had been two days since I had the first warning tremors of something big about to happen. I thought I had life under control. People asked me how I was doing. "Fine" I would answer. Truthfully, I am fine, except for this little riptide I am in right now. Other than that, I'm good. I figured I had it under control. I mean, I got through Saturday without crying, which is a fact I am very proud of.

Enter pastor's sermon.

For his opening illustration, he shared a phone conversation he had with his son's father-in-law (we really need to come up with a title for that). This man is a pastor out in California and has been given a year to live with his cancer. Pastor says he spoke with him and that this man said, "You don't realize how selfish you are until all of your chips are out." Fall, tear one.

Pastor went on to give a sermon on "The Upward Look." His base text was Psalm 121. I remember his points. The Upward Look brings salvation. The Upward Look brings hope. The Upward Look brings peace. The Upward Look brings action. All the while, I am sitting in my pew with tears streaming down my face. He opened the invitation with, "Is there something that is completely out of your hands. You know, we people, we try to help, but sometimes the only One who can help you is God."
As I hunted through my purse for my tissues all I kept thinking was, "How on earth did he find out?"

I needed that message. It was a booster shot to my weakened faith. Of course I know that I am supposed to be relying on God, but sometimes just hearing someone else say it helps.

Then this morning, in my morning devotions, I read a "leadership principle" taken from a Peace Corps commercial, of all places. The phrase: If you aren't doing something with your life, it doesn't matter how long it is.


I have been trying to practice the Upward Look. Trying to practice a selfless life. I still have so far to go. As I got my blood drawn for tests this morning, I prayed a silent prayer, "God, I don't know why. I don't understand why. As much as I want to know why, I also know that You are in control. You already know the results of this test. I admit, the possibilities scare me, but I know they don't scare You. You have planned this, for reasons I do not know. You have planned this to be part of my life. To be what I experience right now. Be my Help, Father. Be my Sufficiency. I know that You are with me, even now. Even in the valley of the shadow. However the outcome, use it for Your glory. That is the very reason I live and breathe. For Your glory, Lord. In Christ's name, Amen."

And the Upward Look brought peace.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Walk on Water

The times in our lives when it seems hardest are the times that we have lost our sight of Him.

I have struggled in the last 24 hours, especially to remember where God is. Right beside me, right where He has always been.

God tries our faith, this much is true. I think of the story of Peter and walking across the water. Christ says, "Come on out, Peter." So Peter jumps out of the boat, and for a few moments, life is great. He is on top of the world. He is doing the impossible. It had to have been SO COOL! Then, all of the sudden, he thinks to himself, "Look at those waves! This was a bad idea!" and down he goes. Peter took his eyes off Christ. He started focusing on his circumstance. The coolness of the impossible all of the sudden became, "What on EARTH am I doing?!!?"

Our faith is like that. Life is peachy keen while we are on top of the waves. While we are cruising along. It's so cool and living for God is totally rad ;-) All of the sudden salt water licks at our kneecaps and we look down. Then, down we go. We take our eyes off Christ and we focus on our situation, we freak out and instead of reaching out to Him, we drown. Bad idea.

I am thankful for Godly friends. They have kept my focus on Him when it has been so hard. I spoke with one last night and told him, "Whether it is or isn't (cancer) the only part of my life that I want to change is my passion to live it." Today, I did just that. I got out of home, I chilled with the boys :-) We went and played sand volleyball. It was the first time I really noticed the growing lump in my throat. They waited patiently for me as I continually took breaks to make sure I didn't overdo it. We went out to lunch and spoke of God, of our walk with Him, of how we struggle with certain aspects of our lives.

One thing we discussed was our daily devotional lives. A friend said, "Isn't it funny how the days you spend time with God seem to go so well and then the days you don't, everything falls apart." Throughout our discussion, we determined it all comes back to discipline. I shared with them that Friday morning I was running late. I had ten minutes to spare and the thought crossed my mind, "Sorry God, I just don't have time this morning, maybe later." Conviction flooded me and I thought to myself, "No, you need this, you need to do this, even if it isn't a lot of time." I told them that those few moments I spent are what got me through yesterday. Without those moments of reflection and worship, I would have drowned. We must keep our focus on Him.

I didn't cry today, at least not until I started talking with my mom. Life suddenly feels different when you realize that in a matter of weeks I might be scheduling surgery or chemotherapy. Pretty much my life is going to change drastically in one way or the other. I will probably have to take medicine everyday for the rest of my life. I could die. These are waves, and they are calling out to me to fall in.

There are times I feel myself sinking. Panic begins to set in, but then I remember who He is and where He is. He is my Saviour, the Maker of the mountains I am unable to climb, my Fortress, my Rock, my Deliverer, my Sufficiency, the Lover of my Soul, the Creator of my life, the Sustainer of my being, the only One worthy of all of my praise and He has never left me. He has not changed. My circumstances should not change my relationship with Him except to draw me closer.

One of the songs that I have fallen in love with over the past couple weeks is "Mighty to Save" by Laura Story (or Hillsong United). I love the chorus:

"Saviour, He can move the mountains. My God is mighty to save; He is mighty to save. Forever, Author of Salvation. He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave."

He is my saviour and He is mighty to save, but even if He doesn't 'save' me from this, He is still mighty. Praise God.

Friday, July 18, 2008


God really has a way of hammering home the lessons He is trying to teach me. I have spent this week studying the portion of Chronicles that discusses the building of the temple. Even this morning I sat amazed at the sovereignty of God. I was amazed at how He took care of every little detail. He was in it all, right down to the smallest tribe, He was involved, He cared. That touched me this morning. It excited me. Sitting here now, twelve hours later, I understand why.

I went into work today, like every other day. Went to a doctor's 'well visit' appointment just to renew some prescriptions before my insurance is terminated. I walked out with two new prescriptions and orders for diagnostic testing. I might have cancer. That isn't quite the 'well office' visit I was going for.

Ever have one of those days when you want to hit the pause button and rewind. Like you didn't quite catch an amazing play at a football game so you say, "Oh, no! That was too cool, rewind that and play it back in slow motion. I just can't believe it!!" I've been doing that in my head all day. "God, take me back to this morning, knowing what I know now and let me just live this day over again because it all happened so fast."

Tears have come on and off all day as I have struggled with understanding why. I have hit rewind and played the whole day over again. I start with this morning and my time in the Word. I remember how much I rejoiced at the sovereignty of God that now every fiber of my being screams to question. My mind has rushed ahead: "What if it is? How long do I have? Should I up my life insurance policy? Should I get a better health insurance plan?" My mother and I seriously sat down this afternoon and looked at health insurance plans that cover chemotherapy and inpatient hospitalization. We even discussed the benefits of one insurance that has a life insurance option.

As the day has played over and over again, I have become more and more at peace with who He is. I don't have to understand why. As much as this day rocked my world, God knew. He knew what this day would hold when I woke up this morning. That and He knows what the tests next Friday will reveal.

As I've read through Chronicles, I've seen the sovereignty of God at work. I've seen how He used David. Did you know that David couldn't build the temple because of the blood that he had shed? Did you know that Solomon was chosen because his reign would be full of peace? Did you know that the peace of Solomon's reign was the result of the bloodshed? Read it! It's in there! I promise I am not making it up:
The very thing that kept David from building the temple was the very thing that allowed Solomon to build it. How AWESOME is that!!

It reminds me of the verse in Romans: All things work together for good.

Doesn't mean all things are good, but that they work together for good. The end result of what they will accomplish is controlled by the hand of the Benevolent One.

I watched a video in MOCOYOGRO about an aussie name Nick. Nick was born without arms or legs. It is amazing to hear him preach. To see him, standing on a table proclaiming the goodness of God in his life.

Goodness??!?! You say. Goodness?!? How can a man with no arms and no legs consider that God's goodness? That deformity has opened up opportunities that no two-legged person could ever accomplish. What we see as bad is working out for good...according to His purpose.

That's really what it all boils down to, isn't it. Living a life of reckless abandon means surrendering completely to His purpose. That is the very reason for our breathing. And you know what? God would never waste a life. If I am here, I am here for a reason. If I have cancer, I have it for a reason. If I die, I die for a reason. He knew...and He allowed because He has a reason, a reason for this testing of my faith. A reason for this time of uncertainty. He has a reason, and He, not I, is ultimately in control.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pray the Promises of God

For a couple months now, friends have been really challenging me in the aspect of prayer. One big thing I hear is "Claim the Promises of God." What on earth is that supposed to mean?? The Bible tells us to pray boldly. How does that look? Do I just march into the throneroom of grace, lay open my Bible and say, "Listen, you promised this this and this and I want it now." That's bold. Not sure about respectful, but it is bold.

It reminds me of an attorney's commercial on TV right now. People are shown screaming at their TV's or out their windows. Their battle cry is "It's my money and I need it now!" Is that how we approach God?

Me. I was raised praying like this, "Dear Lord, I really want this and such, like I really really want it, but Your will be done. Amen." A friend challenged me recently that a prayer like that isn't exactly bold and it isn't exactly a faith-based prayer. Might be a good reason why nothing was really happening when I prayed. If something I wanted didn't happen, I just figured it wasn't God's will.

Yesterday morning, I was reading through Chronicles and came across this passage in 1 Chronicles 17.

For thou, O my God, hast told thy servant that thou wilt build him an house: therefore thy servant hath found in his heart to pray before thee. And now, LORD, thou art God, and hast promised this goodness unto thy servant: Now therefore let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may be before thee for ever: for thou blessest, O LORD, and it shall be blessed for ever.
1 Chronicles 17:25-27

In context, this passage falls in the chapter of Scripture where David desires to build a house for the ark. His advisor, for lack of a better word, tell him to go for it. That night, God tells his advisor to tell David not to do it. Instead, God will use David's descendants to build the ark. He promises to establish David's family for forever and to never leave his line. (A promise fulfilled in Christ, for those of you wondering).

So here is this promise from God. David has just heard it. It has just been given. We all know God is a God of His word, He cannot lie, He does not make promises that He will not keep. So, you would think David could kinda put that promise in his back pocket to pull out later. Instead, he prays for God to do as He has promised!


Does he doubt God? No.
Did God tell him to? No.

So what was his reason? Worship.

David declared the promise of God in his prayer as worship to God. Praying for it did four things.

1. It showed he was listening to God
2. It showed he believed God
3. It showed he trusted God
4. It reminded him of the power of God

If I claim the promises of God in my prayer it reminds me of all that He is and all that I am not.

That attitude, of praying the promises of God, has revolutionized my prayer life so far this week. It is one thing to come before God timid and unsure and praying the vanilla "Your will" prayer, disregarding your hopes and dreams. It is another thing to go blazing before Him demanding (like the prodigal son, coincidentally) that He has promised you this and you need it now. I think the happy medium is this, to approach God and claim His promises, not as reminders to Him but reminders to ourselves. In doing so, we humble ourselves before the One who gives and takes away, yet we know that if we ask, He will give it to us. It is a sweet fellowship of trust and obedience.

I don't know if I am showing it well on here. Just imagine how it would change our lives if we went through the Bible and claimed all of the promises that God has given us.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Choose to be a Nobody

Yesterday morning, I sat down for my morning devotions. I was at a loss for where to go in Scripture, and what exactly to study. My brother is in New York at the Word of Life Ranch right now, and this summer they are studying the book of Philippians. Jonathan and I enjoy challenging conversation with each other, so I decided I would brush up on Philippians and read it through myself. I had to memorize a large portion of it 6 summers ago when I first worked at the Ranch, but isn't it neat how God's Word doesn't get old? The one verse that was our theme verse for that summer hit me during devotions and challenged a very huge problem in my life: my pride.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Philippians 2:5

This was one of the first verses I remember ever memorizing. We would sing it to the tune of "Give me oil in my lamp." I have quoted it countless times and it is the 'Scriptural Basis' for WWJD.

We are missing the rest of the sentence. See, Scripture verse numberings are manmade, and whoever did them would break up sentences. Granted, some of the writers, especially Paul, would write a sentence long enough to kill your high school English teacher. His sentences are often verse upon verse upon verse long. The grammatical rule still stays the same though. One sentence = one thought. So let's look at the rest of the sentence.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross

I think sometimes we interpret "Let this mind be in you" to mean "Have a Christlike attitude." What does that look like? The verses afterward tell us. The mind of Christ is a mind that makes us into nobodys. Christ was God, so if anybody had the right to tell people what was up, He did. He had every right to come down here and knock sense into people. He had every right to walk around declaring Himself to be God and demand to be treated as such. It wouldn't have been wrong. He could have. He didn't. Instead, He did the complete opposite. He made Himself into a nobody. It says it right there, "made himself of no reputation." Here is God in the flesh, the whole world literally at His fingertips and He be of no reputation. He CHOOSES to be a servant, to humble himself and die on our cross.

How does this translate to us?

You know, all that you think you are...all the 'game' you think you have means nothing. To have the mind of Christ is to choose to be a nobody. Besides, your life isn't about you anyway. To have the mind of Christ is to humble yourself and do that which is beneath you, because nothing is beneath you.

It ties right in with Proverbs 27:2

Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.

In other words, quit telling the world you are all that. If you are all that, someone else will be sure to tell the world for you.

Personal application for me: No service, no ministry is below me if I truly have the mind of Christ.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It All Comes Back to Faith

"Jessica, do you trust God enough to know that if you are honest, He will take care of you?"

I'd just been shot. I placed the newly-folded shirt, in the dresser drawer and stepped away. I pulled the phone from its perch between my shoulder and ear and collapsed onto my bed.

"Jess, are you still with me?"

"I'm here, I had never really thought of it that way before....WOW."

Abby is probably one of the most respected women in my life. A dear friend for the last 4 years since we were roommates our first year of college. She is one of the few that I know I can always look to for the sound, level, you-may-not-like-what-I-am-about-to-say-but-you-are-going-to-hear-it-anyway advice. Again, she did not disappoint.

This gnawing at my conscience, this grief, this guilt. Was it possible that it was not just conviction over concealing the truth but also a lack of faith?

The situation is a touchy one, to be sure. I am at a point right now that I am fairly certain I will no longer be working here in August. My employer doesn't know yet, and telling could lead to an early, unpaid exit or a couple weeks of vacation that will be time without pay. Frankly, I can't afford either; we need the money. Therein lies my dilemma. As I sit through meetings like I did yesterday and hear co-workers discuss plans for August, guilt probably doesn't begin to describe what washes over me. After that conversation last night, I know now what that emotion is:

It is a broken fellowship.

I thought hard through the rest of our conversation and into the night. I woke this morning and read through Matthew 6. You know, the part about seeking the kingdom of God.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

We humans like the 'and all these things shall be added unto you' part. We zip through everything else, emphasizing how God will take care of us, how He promises to meet our needs, etc, etc, etc, me, me, me, us, my. We read the 'Seek ye first' but I think we do not understand how that looks. What does that mean? To seek God's kingdom first. Not only His kingdom, but His righteousness. That is the portion that jumped out to me this morning. You know what it said?

Jessica, you do what you know is right. Make that your priority, I will take care of the rest. I have called My people to be honest, to be truthful. Pursue My righteousness.

Why is that so hard for us? Because we humans are too logical. If I tell, I lose my vacation time, which means 2 weeks with no paycheck, which is bad. Therefore, to help God in providing my needs (said with sarcasm) I must not tell. Because, after all, we all know God needs my help (sarcasm, again).

It really does all come back to faith. In any decision there are two options: serving God, or serving self. You can't serve both of them. But, do we trust God enough to do what we know He would have us do, and not worry that He will provide? That's a tall order for a small faith, but it defines the heros of faith.

Read through Hebrews 11. By faith so-and-so, did something that totally defies all human comprehension and, in turn, God did such-and-such which also completely defies all human comprehension and so-and-so was blessed beyond all human comprehension. Our human comprehension and logic doesn't make room for faith, at all. Even the definition of faith blows logic to the moon:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen

Faith is what hope is made of. Faith is the evidence of the invisible. My faith is the proof of my God. WOAH! My actions, my attitudes, are defined by my faith, by my trust in God. Do I trust God enough, do I have enough faith to do what He has called me to do, even when it makes no sense? I'm not saying to go jump off a bridge and trust God to catch you. That is straight-up stupid. This is about the little things. The choices I make, based on that faith will show my God to the world, will set me apart from those who make decisions based on logic. Everything, all of it, every move I make, every step I take, is not motivated by fear, or doubt, or even adrenaline. It all really does come back to faith.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Climb

This weekend, I was privileged to observe 'real' rock climbing for the first time in my life. Around a camp fire, many spritual parallels were drawn from the experience. Neat how God does that :-)

Saturday, a brave team of young women *ahem* excuse me- a brave team of beastly mountain women (lol)-went to climb a rock. Not just any rock, mind you, this was a 40 ft tall moss covered crevice that was nearly smooth. The general idea was to climb up the rock to the top and repel back down. The progression of events was rather comical. Two people made it up the rock, one person made it down and 15 people got drenched in a torrential downpour. Makes for some fun memories.

For me, the most impacting part of the day was a particular climber. She was having the hardest time getting past the first ten feet of rock. She would try one way, slip and fall, would try another way and, again, slip and fall. Blood was literally running down her one leg, but she continued to try. Leaders at the top and the bottom were trying to coach her on where to put her feet and hands, when finally, her belayer said, "Just hold the rope, I'll pull you up so you can get past this part and then go from there."

That's how it is sometimes in this rock climb that we call life. There are those who have gone before who are coaching and encouraging, but sometimes the current struggle is just too hard to bear. Don't give up; keep going. Call out for help and it will come. There are times in life, when despite all of the Christian friends around us, the only one we can hold to is God. He alone becomes our only hope of getting through.

A friend said that pulling on the rope reminded her of the jist of the poem 'Footprints.' It is God who is carrying us. At times, we just have to completely depend on Him and have Him help us through. Our Help, our Fortress, our Rope that will never break.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

kata prothesis

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

kata prothesis: according to His purpose.

I read over this passage this morning as I chew on Romans.

For those of you new to this concept, in college I learned a form of Bible study which literally tears every verse apart. I have nicknamed it 'chewing.' We had to diagram the entire book of Philemon. Since then, I have a newfound appreciation for reading portions of Scripture 1 or 2 verses at a time and really studying it as opposed to speed-reading through 6 chapters and walking away thinking, "Uh, what did I just read?"

At any rate, I was looking through the Greek words in this text and found something highly interesting. The word for purpose in Romans 8:28 is prothesis (not to be confused with prosthesis- a medical term). The definition threw me. Prothesis, in Greek, is the word for the shewbread used in the Levitical temple.

That threw a wrench in my morning. Can you imagine reading that verse, " them that are the called according to His shewbread?" I was inclined to believe that there was a bigger meaning or something I was missing. So, a study in Romans, led to a study on shewbread.

In Sunday school, we are studying Leviticus. The teacher encouraged us to find Christ on every page. This could apply to any part of the Old Testament that addresses the Tabernacle or the sacrificial system.

The shewbread is put on display before the Lord. The loaves set on a table before od. It was continually there. Now you may think, "What on earth is the purpose of placing bread on a table?" It represents Christ's sacrifice. The loaves are continually before the Holy One, as is Christ. On the Sabbath, the loaves are replaced, a portion is sprinkled with frankincense and offered to God. As was Christ (but only once, mind you).

So what does that have to do with 'purpose.' Well, simply put, the 'purpose' in Romand 8:28 is salvation. Sometimes we like to put our own meaning on that purpose. We like to tweek the interpretation to make us feel warm and fuzzy. But His purpose is salvation, plain and simple. It is not to give a nice, cozy, cushy life, it is to work in your life, salvation. That may mean some hard times, but you can rest assured that those hard time will work for your benefit (for good) kata prothesis.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Battling the Electronic Princes

The common question is:

What impact are video games having on young people (men in particular)?

Entertain this line of thought with me for a moment.

What impact are other people having on young people (men in particular) that pushes them toward video games?

A thought burst into my mind this weekend. I was sitting in my grandparents' living room playing Halo with my youngest brother. It is how he and I bond. I figure it more plausible for me to play video games with him than it is for him to start cooking with me. I will confess, I am more the damsel in distress than I am a sidekick. He is constantly barraged with "Jonathan, where did you go?" "JJ, what kind of gun is this?" "What button do I pull to shoot again?" "Wait a did I get here?" or the classic "Jonathan, HELP ME! He's beating me up! HELP!" It is certain that he spends more time telling me to, "Stay back; it might get messy in here" than he does playing.

I realized something this weekend.

He is protecting me.

In one of the only ways he knows how, he is protecting me.

I take very seriously my role as an oldest sister with two younger brothers. Those two will someday, Lord willing, be husbands, fathers. My part in their lives right now is to prepare them for that. I have the privilege and responsibility to 'grow men.' I get to stand there and offer a polite clearing of the throat if the door in front of me is not opened.

I am training them to be warrior-princes. To be poets. To be the best husbands and fathers that they can be by making them the best brothers they can be. I have Jonthan trained to offer his arm if we are crossing a street or if we are in a crowd. This past weekend, there was a very large, very strong, very scary questionnable character following me around the library. Justin has become observant enough that he realized my plight and quickly placed his 5'11" 200 pound frame between myself and the threat.

So, how does this all tie in?

For years, I have heard it told that men like being the warriors. The heros that rush in and save the day. That's how they are wired; that is who they are. But the modern-day woman is attempting to be a little heroin all her own. I have witnessed incidents where a poor unsuspecting gentleman has nearly lost his head for opening a lady's door. (The nerve!)

Is it any wonder that some men are just drawn to video games, then? Games where they get to save the damsel in distress from all the big ugly, four-headed, alien things. Games where they can die and come back to life immediately and just give it another go. After this weekend, it doesn't suprise me. Not in the least.

Not all video games encourage unnecessary violence. I don't think video games are all wrong. In fact, I do enjoy them, as stupid as they make me feel sometimes. There is just so much concern about the pull they have on our young people, especially when it comes to young men. It should be of no suprise. Men are drawn to video games like girls are drawn to fairy tales. Inside that world of make-believe lies everything that our hearts were designed to be: warriors and princesses.

You want to get a young man you know away from the gaming system? Take on the responsibility of allowing him to be a hero in your own life. He doesn't have to be your blood brother. At this moment I have many many brothers in Christ. Men whose lives I strive to make better by just being a lady. Men who have made my life better by being heros, 'big brothers' to me.

It stands as a challenge: to take the heroics of the video game and allow them to be lived out in real life.

Maybe I am totally off-base, but it is certainly food for thought.

You never know for sure how your actions affect the lives of those around you.

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Tim 4:12


A Video game Fun Fact:

A friend just shared this with me (one of my 'big brothers'). The opening theme for Civilization IV is actually The Lord's Prayer in Swahili! To hear the music, visit the composer's site.

Now, next time you have a friend playing this, use it as an opportunity to witness!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Let me be wasted

People ask me why I chose to do 'this.' Whatever 'this' may be.

My five year high school reunion is this summer. People I haven't spoken with in years are suddenly taking interest in where I am, what I'm doing, what I have been up to. See, I graduated high school with big dreams. I was the one who was 'going places.' People, I'm sure, expect me to be a doctor or something impressive by now, but I'm not. Even members of my family expect me to be something 'more.' Those I love dearest are disappointed at my lack of 'success.' Opposition comes from every side.

But I am grateful for the people that God puts in my life. People who encourage me and remind me of why I do 'this.' Why I do not pursue a climb up the corporate ladder. Why I serve here, right where I stand. Why I spend all day working at a job that is much less than enjoyable and nearly all of my free time writing or working with teenagers. Someone told me I have no life. On the contrary, I have an abundant life.

I think I needed to be reminded of that today. I stood and talked for nearly 20 minutes with a dear family from my church. They have been such a blessing to me. Today I probably shared more with them than I ever have with anybody. Had it not been during church, there might have tears. It is not easy being transparent with people. It is not easy reliving the disappointment that others express in me. It is not easy reliving the disappointment that, at times, I know I have been. But they, this family, are a beautiful picture of grace. Embracing and understanding that what I am doing now is what I believe God would have me to do, even if it does seem 'reckless' or a 'waste of a perfectly good life' as some would say.

Let me be wasted.

After that discussion, and a moving message about mothers, a woman at my church pulled me aside and reminded me of a song. She asked me if I had ever heard it and asked me to put it on my site for people to listen to. Yes, I have heard, though I dare say I may have never actually listened to it.

The words are touching, real and so true of my own life. I love the chorus:
"I've come to pour my praise on Him, like oil, from Mary's alabaster box. Don't be angry if I wash His feet with my tears and dry them with my hair. You weren't there the night He found me, when He wrapped His loving arms around me. And you don't know the cost of the oil from my alabaster box."

How quick are we to judge the worth of another's service? Or the worth of another's worship? The worth of another's life?

You were not there when Jesus found me. No one knows the change He has made in my life. I do not fully understand the change He has made in yours. If He calls me to serve, I will serve. If He calls you to be a lawyer, than be a lawyer. If He calls to be a missionary, be a missionary. It is a life of abandon, a life of continual, sacrificial worship that brings an abundant life. I don't care how many trophies you have. I don't care how many friends you have. Neither does He. He cares about how much of you He has.

When this woman brought in her box and broke it at His feet, half the people couldn't believe she had even dared come to Jesus, the other half couldn't believe she had wasted her precious oil on Jesus. Funny the extremes we go to. On one hand, we are esteemed unworthy of grace, on the other grace is esteemed unworthy of us. Yet, God, in an act of unprecedented love, provided a sacrifice in Himself that His holiness and justice demanded.

I am unworthy of grace, yet I possess it. For that I rejoice. For that I owe Him every last bit of my being. For that I owe Him my every breath, my every movement, my every word. I owe Him my alabaster box and more. Call it a waste if you must, but if it be for the glory and honor of my Saviour,

Let me be wasted.

Thursday, May 8, 2008



How many times do we use that word, in a day? Working with teens, I hear it all the time. A guy flips a trick on a skateboard and a chorus of "Dude! That was wicked awesome!"s comes from his friends. Someone serves an ace in volleyball and you hear, "Awesome serve!"

We use that word alot. In doing so, we have destroyed it. Why does it matter? Because 'awesome' is a word used to describe God. No, you won't find the word 'awesome' in the Bible. But you will find 'awe' and every time it is used, it is used in reference to God. Look it up:

Ps 4:4
But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him. Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

Ps 33:8
Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.

Ps 119:161
Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word.

Dictionary definition of 'awesome': an adjective, expressive of awe.
Dictionary definition of 'awe': totally cool, amazing, radical....wrong

The real dictionary definition of awe is: an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime

Yeah, we don't use it like that- at all.

In November of last year, I devoted seven weeks to intense study. It wasn't as intense as I had intended, but God did teach me so much. During that time, I began a book, "Gripped by the Greatness of God." Attractive title...amazing book.

In one of the chapters, the author addresses this concept of standing in awe in front of God.

First, let me point out, that if you are standing, you are not moving. In every one of the verses cited above and in even just the definition of the word 'awe' one develops a mental picture of being stopped speechless. (That, unfortunately, is how we came about to misuse the word). We are standing...still...enthralled by whatever it is that has caught our attention. Standing still.

How many times do we approach God with an agenda? A spiritual to-do list. We walk up to Him, say our 'Thank You for this day, Thank You for this and such. Bless the missionaries. Keep my family safe. And now, I want this this this this this this and this and yeah, that's it. Amen.' We walk into our prayer closet, impatiently tapping our foot and checking our watch like we're waiting for an oncoming train. Let me start by encouraging you, that the largest and strongest of any plant has deep roots. Deep roots that were developed by holding still. Approach God with no agenda and with time and see what happends.

Now, on to 'awe.' In previous chapters of this book, the author has shared an amazing study in the holiness of God. He leads the reader through Isaiah 6. We read it and think, 'Ug, Old Testament, who cares?' You should. The Old Testament paints the picture of God that allows the New Testament to show us our need for Christ.

When you have a second, read through Isaiah 6, and get a glimpse of the holiness of God. For now, I'm going to direct your attention to Psalm 33: 6-9.

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.

That, folks, is a big God. That is something to stand in awe of.

If you follow the Jewish faith, they regard the name of God very very highly. There are certain names for God that they won't even mention and when they write 'God' they write it 'G-d' so that they are certain that they are not taking His name in vain. Then here we are using it all the time, right along with 'awesome.' Just not the way it was supposed to be used.

The author of "Gripped" leveled a challenge at his readers. He said that, in his house, his children are not allowed to use the word awesome unless they are talking about God. He encourages his readers to do the same. I encourage you to do this as well.

As I stopped using 'awesome' to describe plays in a game or someone's cooking, my relationship with God changed. 'Awesome' became, what I call, a sacred word. It is a word 'sanctified' (set-apart) for something. Awesome became a sacred word for me to describe God and usually in my prayer to Him.

As I began to use it solely for Him, I noticed something. It began to carry the meaning it was intended to have. When I pray, 'God, You are an awesome God' I get caught on the word and have to think about it. As I do, I realize how awesome of a God He truly is.

Still aren't convinced? Read the final chapters of Job. Job has had a string of 'bad luck' and gets advice from three close friends. In my honest opinion, his friends were idiots, but I am sure that there was a time when I would have given the same advice. They are convinced that Job has somehow screwed up. Their basic emotion is: "Wow! Job. What did you do? You must have done something real bad for God to be doing this to you. You need to get your heart right and do whatever it is He told you."

Unlike Jonah, Job's problems were not caused by disobedience. On the contrary, they were caused by obedience! And after chapter upon chapter of tolerating this poor advice, God finally steps onto the scene and pretty much tells Job, "Step up and face me like a man." God spends the remainder of this book showing His majesty. In essence, He is telling Job: "Do you understand who I am? Where you there when I made the world? Where you there when I created the laws of science? Answer Me! Where you there?" Read those chapters. Pay attention to the words. Pause. Reflect. And stand in awe of your Creator, the Calmer of the Seas, the Judger of the Nations, the Master of the Tides, the King of Kings, the Jealous one, the Sacrifice, the Kinsman Redeemer, the Spotless Lamb, your Shield and Buckler, your Fortress forever, your Messiah, your Saviour.

Stand in awe.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ephesians 1:3-12

This was a delightful mistake. I accidentally flipped a page in my Bible and ended up in Ephesians instead of Galatians. I was reading through the verses and found them strikingly relevant and became confused. I thought, "How did I miss this when I was studying this chapter? How could I look over this." No, it isn't Galatians, but I want to touch on it just the same.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance , being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

First off, do you realize how focused this chapter is on God. Over and over again it mentions what He has done, what He has given us. It speaks of all of the actions God takes on our behalf.

But wait. Is it on our behalf? Yes, He bestows blessing upon blessing upon us. We have salvation. We have forgiveness. We have grace, but why? For Him. It was according to His good pleasure for His glory.

Newsflash to us: our lives are not for us! The fact that He even chooses to tolerate us should be enough to humble us, yet we waltz around acting like He owes us something. Like we deserve grace or glory. We certainly deserve none. He is working in our lives. He has bestowed grace on us so that we can glorify Him. That blows my mind. Think of a potter planning his next masterpiece. Think of how you would react if he reached out and grabbed a broken, dirty, discarded pot to use. It certainly wouldn't be my first choice, but that is exactly what He does. He has a plan for every single one of us. A plan that He has had since the beginning of time. A plan that does not and will not change. A plan that involves pulling us out of the trash heap and placing us on His wheel. After hours of turning and twisting, He will make us what He has always intended us to be- vessels for His glory and grace.

Yet, we feel we deserve it. When we are all fixed up, we march up to the highest shelf in the shop and say "AH HA! Look at me, I'm so amazing!" We 'church it up' and do all the motions, and chip away. Forget the fact that were it not for grace we would still be in that trash heap. Were it not for Calvary, were it not for grace, you my friend, would still be broken, and worthless lying in that heap of trash. But He has bigger plans for you. Not so you can be glorified, but so HE can be glorified, through you. What a wonderful Maker.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


I'll get back to Galatians.
I've been thinking alot lately. Thinking is a good thing. What I've been thinking about has puzzled me but has driven the roots of my faith deeper into the soil. Again, I find myself fumbling through the recesses, attempting to connect these dots into the picture that God is trying to show me. They are related...somehow.


This is a fun one. Lessons are evidencing themselves in various ways. I have myself tangled up in a debate over the gift of singleness. The debate starter is convinced that being single is better than being married. I do not agree.

My beloved youth leaders are attempting to "hook me up." :-p People at work are trying to 'hook me up.' My brothers and sister are trying to hook me up. I am trying not to scream ;-)

I recently finished a book about marriage, absolutely revolutionary ideas.

When it all boils down to it though, our ultimate fulfillment is found in Christ. The times in my life when I feel most discontent I realize that I have 'forgotten' to love Christ. Love is a choice, a selfless choice made by my selfish heart to pour out my adoration and affection on someone or something. I wish that all of the time that were poured on Christ. Truth is, most of the time, it is poured out elsewhere.

The love that God has shown to us is absolutely revolutionary. There can be no comparison found here on earth. Doesn't matter how amazing he is, my 'knight' will still have chinks in his armor but never my Savior. An undying, sacrificial, unconditional love. Love that pierces the deepest parts of my being, that knows all, sees all and still chose to love me and continues to love me. That's probably what makes this next thing so hard.


In general, we hate failing. Messing up is not on the top 10 list of things to do today, but it can be fairly certain it will be done unless we hide under the covers all day with no access to the outside world. At some point today, I will let someone down. When that someone is someone I care about, that hurts.

I know it discourages me when I fail, especially when I fail God. I've done quite a bit of that recently. Amazing how easily we fall back into the wilderness of the Israelites. God does something miraculous and in five minutes it becomes yesterday's news. It boggles my mind and breaks God's heart, of that I am sure.

This morning I was reminded of the verse that led me to Christ. As I pushed play on my CD player this morning the song "Mercy Came Running" played. For those of you that don't know, that is 'my song.' The day I came to Christ I played that song to remind me of the fact that salvation is nothing I earned. It is nothing I pursued. God pursued me. Part of the song goes as follows:

"Once there was a broken heart, way too human from the start. All the years left it torn apart, hopeless and afraid. Walls I never meant to build, left this prisoner unfulfilled. Freedom called but even still, it seemed so far away. I was bound by the chains from the wages of my sin, and just when I felt like giving in mercy came a runnin'...Sometimes I, still feel so far. So far from where I really should be. He gently calls to my heart, just to remind me. Mercy came a runnin like a prisoner set free, past all my failures to the point of my need. When the sin that I had carried was all I could see, and when I could not reach mercy, mercy came a runnin' to me."

The verse: Romans 5:8 "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. "

Before I ever knew Him. Before I ever sought Him. Before I ever even was able to love Him, He loved me. If that was then, how much more is that grace afforded to me now as His child? Even now, it is nothing I can do. Nothing I can do could ever repay. Even now, I fall...I look forward to the day when I am truly free, unable to break His heart anymore. For now, I battle with this body of sin, wrapped in His love.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fear of... > Galatians 1: 9-11

Picking up Paul's intro in verse 9, he repeats his charge from verse 8.

"As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."

Paul is an intriguing writer. I would have loved to have known him if only for his personality. For me this sentence would be breathed out heavily, maybe with a sigh. "I told you before, but just in case you didn't get it, let me say it one more time." Repetition stresses a point. He wants them to get this, to really really get this.

So, what's the big deal? Well what you have to remember is that Paul is preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles . This is nothing new for us; most of us grew up with it our entire lives, but at this time, it was revolutionary. For years, the worship of God had been according to the law. There were set rules, set offerings, set rituals that 'defined' being one of 'His people.' And here's Paul, flipping the world upside down by saying that all of that doesn't matter anymore. Devout Jews were ticked! More than likely they were following him trying to preach a salvation, part grace part works. Allowing for the grace of the cross but requiring the tradition as well.

I can imagine that the charge leveled by these false teachers at Paul is that he is a people-pleaser. They accuse him of twisting the Gospel around to make the Gentiles happy. Paul's rebuke is strong and solid.

"For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man." (v.10-11)

Basically his response is, "Who am I working for now? Am I not working for God? If I worked to please men, to make men happy, I would no longer be serving Christ."

The classic case of Fear of God vs. Fear of Man. Personally, I struggle with this one alot. If I had a list of weaknesses in my faith, this would most likely be number 2, right behind my prayer life. It is a big struggle and it effects many areas of my own faith most prominent being my readiness to evangelize.

I have met some people who certainly have a gift for sharing the Gospel. In college, one young man told me of how he went to the mall and pretty much flat out asked the cashier if he knew Christ. Turns out he was homosexual and didn't want to have anything to do with God. The cashier looked Jeremy square in the face and said, "You think I'm going to Hell, don't you." Jeremy's response, "Before I met, Christ, so was I." Jeremy, my friend, was able to share the Gospel with this clerk. Me? I would have thanked him kindly for ringing my purchase, and walk away.

Within five minutes of meeting my grandfather, you will hear his testimony and have the Gospel presented. He has no fear, and I love him for it. Telemarketers, I'm sure, want to add him to the 'Do-Not Call' list because calling him gives you the Gospel and sells him nothing. Any conversation, and I mean any conversation, he can turn into an opportunity to share the Gospel. He always carries a bunch of tracts in his pocket as well as invitations to church.

At times, I admit (much to my shame) it can be embarrassing. As he starts off on his usually tract, "Well, let me tell you about the day that changed my life..." in my mind, I think, "Oh no! Not again, can't we just leave? Why do I have to be standing here?" What is that? Fear of man, fear of association.

But who better to be associated with??!?! I am a child of the King, joint-heir with Christ, beloved, forgiven, bought with a price. Yet, somehow, it is still a struggle.

For most of us, sharing the Gospel does not come easily. For some it is like second nature. I long to not be ashamed, to buck the norm and declare God's grace with love. But, I fear man more than I fear God, that is basically what it comes down to. And when you think about who God is and who men are...that's a big thing to say, that somehow I fear puny, finite men to the Almighty, Holy, King of Glory.

Who do you fear?