Tag Archives: Christ

Wise Words for my Future

Earlier this week a wise friend set me free with this statement, “You and God have a good thing going. I, too, feel there are some big changes coming up for you. Just know that not everyone in your life is going to respond positively to those changes, but if those changes are from God it is better to do His will than to please others.”

As the week progressed, I kept going back to that statement, feeling freer and freer to be who God has made me to be and to do what God has purposed me to do. I’m sure, if you have been reading my blog regularly, you have sensed my utter frustration at closed doors in my life. Part of my frustration is feeling that change is coming and not seeing the manifestation of that change. My thinking is, ‘If God has told me change is coming, why hasn’t it happened yet?’ I feel like the child in the back seat of the car screaming, “Are we there yet?!?”

The fact is we aren’t there yet because if we were it would mean running red lights, passing on double yellow, violating laws of physics. The same goes for life, sometimes if we rush to our destination, not only have we been reckless along the way, but we have also wished away our day, our week, our life to get to our final destination, death. I’m guessing that’s not truly what we want, and I’m guessing we probably don’t want the consequences of reckless living: broken hearts, stressful thoughts, and tired (possibly sick) bodies.

In the past week I have made a decision that affects every part of my life. As one friend explained, God knew that this would be a good foundation for change. When we set out to do a large project, we don’t try to develop the product right off the bat. We must first make a plan, from the ground up. If our project doesn’t have a strong foundation, it will fail. In the same way I feel God placing that foundation for further growth in other areas of my life.

This 34th year of my life has started off with a bang! I’m so excited (and yet terrified) about what God will do next. A change is coming God willing.

 

Faith and Realistic Expectations

At one time or another every Christian and non-Christian is told something to the effect of, “My life was horrible until I found God.” That is like music to the struggling non-believer’s ears, and it results in many turning to God for a way out of a horrible life. Let’s face it! Being a believer is a beautiful thing, but life is not all roses when you give your life to the Lord. God challenges our thoughts, our actions, our will, and in turn it can lead to confusion, resentment, and power struggle.

Perhaps what people are trying to say when they say their life was horrible until they found God, is that their purpose and destiny have changed. Let’s look at the life of Jesus for example. Jesus was born in a barn, out of wedlock to a young, traveling couple. Later in life he was teased, ridiculed, beaten, forced to carry the cross (the equivalent of an electric chair), hung on that cross, alone and left to die by his own Father. Do you still think life is all rosy after you give your life to God? If you do, you are in for a big surprise.

I believe those that turn away from their faith, usually do so because their faith is challenged by a major trial in life. What if, while standing in that baptismal pool, your pastor said, “Do you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior and accept any suffering and persecution that is guaranteed to come with that decision?” Would you still be baptized?

Consider this. Imagine you have no honest married friends or family. They’ve all told you only positive things about marriage, claiming they’ve never wished they weren’t married. When you walked down the aisle you would be completely clueless as to what you were getting yourself into. In the same way the church could be much more realistic in their approach to evangelism and conversion. Instead of counting only the good feelings that come from being a Christ-follower, perhaps we should warn against all the human disappointment there can be even in the midst of divine appointment.

When we surrender to God often something totally unexpected happens, and as it was discussed at my Bible Study last night, unexpected is usually not fun for the power-struggle of the human will.  We all think we are in control until we surrender.

One thing is guaranteed. When we surrender to God, His will is done.                                            “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9

I can speak from my own experience that the good outweighs the bad, because looking at my life in reverse, I see how God used the “bad”, the trials, the mistakes, the hardships for a positive purpose.

No Algorithm for Love

Streamlined, that’s pretty much the way I like things at work. I like to perform a task efficiently, and I expect others to adopt the same efficient process or I adopt theirs if it’s more efficient. The point of being streamlined is for everyone doing a particular task to achieve the same result in the least amount of time, at least those are my thoughts.

Evangelism and discipleship is a bit different. No two people came to know Christ in exactly the same way, and yet it doesn’t stop Christians from developing a new algorithm to convert people. It seems kind of silly. I’ve been wrestling with this idea of strategizing for Jesus since last Sunday, and I can’t say I’ve come to terms with it just yet. In the great commission Jesus went to his disciples and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus didn’t say do this, not that, in groups of 3, not 4, and meet once a week, every week for 5 weeks. Jesus didn’t say that because he knew that what was going to work for Jake Smith may not work for Mary Jones.

I am in no way saying that you shouldn’t adopt a way of evangelizing and discipling people, but don’t limit yourself to one method. Your method should be love, and love in its purest form given from the blood of Jesus. If you are befriending non-Christians for the purpose of converting them because you want to or because your pastor told you to, they are going to see right through that. And if for some reason they don’t recognize it right away, they will surely realize it when you stop calling once they are converted.

My advice would be to not worry about your method, the algorithm to use. Don’t waste your time considering exactly what you will do to convert a person or a group of people, just start your day in prayer and studying scripture. When you pray ask God to allow you to see people through His eyes. As you become more aware of those around you, you will start to develop friendships. If you are truly walking with the Lord, you’ve already evangelized just by dialoguing with them. “What?” You might say, “You didn’t share the gospel.” Wait for it…

When these new friends become less new (or maybe still new) they will catch you off guard and ask you, “Why are you so happy?” Now, for Christ’s sake, open your mouth and share the gospel, and share it like you really, truly believe it. Share it with the Holy Spirit in you, not some algorithm.

Jesus’ love, hope and peace, they speak for themselves, but every once in a while we get to share the why…

Finding Ways to Celebrate

We all know that life is like a box of chocolates. Not every chocolate can be as delicious as the next. Sometimes you bite into something that looks sweet, and instead it is bitter. Does it mean we stop figuratively biting into life? Or do we just spit out what’s bitter and keep on looking for the sweet stuff?

This last month has been a whirlwind of ups and downs, and I can tell by the forecast of life that it will likely continue. That’s what happens when you are moving. You are bound to get hit with something unexpected. What I have found to be helpful, is to celebrate the little stuff. Recently I counted how many churches I have photographed, and it’s very close to 50. To celebrate I had some of the photos printed on nice paper with my website on the back. They turned out very nice, but then I couldn’t decide what to do with them. Who would want a bunch of pictures of random churches? Probably the people that don’t find them random, like the people that actually pastor these churches. So this week I have written a letter to encourage each pastor, I inserted their photos into the addressed envelopes, and I have decided to pray over each one.

Now suddenly, my personal celebration of my photos has turned into a way I can give back, and when I give back, I feel like I can do anything. Think about it this way. Have you ever seen anyone looking all doom and gloom, but when you say hi they perk up a bit, maybe even say hello back? Do you know that feeling like you have just conquered the world? You made someone smile and it made your day and perhaps theirs as well. When we give, even out of our complete spiritual, emotional, physical, or even financial bankruptcy, we feel energized, encouraged, empowered. It changes your perspective, and can hold the power to change the world.

We will always have times in life when we feel totally at the end of our rope no matter how much faith we claim to have. I have felt that way at times lately even though I have so much to be thankful for. I have a wonderful family, an enjoyable job, great coworkers, supportive friends, a warm place to live, and a car to drive. That’s more than much of the world can say, but somehow I let Satan suck the gratitude out of life. Fortunately I believe in a God that is more powerful than that thinking, and he always pulls me out of the miry clay and sets my feet on rock (Psalm 40:2).

What can you do for others today to also help you remember your blessings? You may not have much, but I guarantee you have enough to help someone else.

It Wouldn’t be Called a Hunt…

Ever since I woke up in the wee hours of the night with complete peace about my next career venture, it’s been nothing but putting my nose to the grindstone. I have applied for nearly 15 jobs, most of which are closer to the school I want to attend so I can earn my degree in the most minimal time period. I tell you, sometimes I wish I hadn’t woken up that night. I think I would call the state I’m in “self-destruction for a cause.” I have woken up early almost every morning to work at least half an hour on future goals, and then when I return home from the job that is supposed to support those goals, I work on them some more, making very little headway.

I guess if getting on the right path were easy people wouldn’t talk about “hunting” for a job or “searching” for direction, etc. If it were easy then everyone would constantly be moving up the ladder. If it were easy it might mean that God doesn’t see me as resilient, a fighter, someone who can meet a challenge head-on. If meeting a goal were simple, there would be no need for a goal.

The one thing I have learned in the last two weeks of being absolutely stressed and spiritually miserable is that I can’t do this alone. I can’t! If I try to achieve my wildest God-given dreams on my own, I am, first of all, going to fail, and secondly, declining the assistance of the very giver, the very author of these dreams. This evening I took a walk down to a local church, something I like doing. The whole way there I prayed out loud, in a whisper, but still out loud. When I arrived there I photographed the outside of the church. Then I walked down to the corner and crossed the street. When I got to the gate where I hoped I could take a shortcut through the college campus, it was locked. I turned back around to head back in the same direction I came only to find that the church I had photographed was now open. I looked at the open door and passed by without stopping, but something in me told me to stop. You see, I had never been in this church or even heard of the denomination, but God wanted me to be in His house in my discouraged and worn out state.

Inside I met two gentleman preparing to have Bible Study. I explained that I have a hobby of photographing churches and asked if I could take a few photos before they started. As I took photos we chatted, and I left encouraged. Yes, God has given me a direction for my future, but He didn’t give me a ticking time bomb to fret over every waking (and sleeping) hour. I am meant to enjoy and connect with others, even when I am chasing after my dream.

Thank God that He is so gracious to wrap me in the arms of his creation and the warmth of my fellow believers to give me the comfort I need for the journey.

Are you a Thing-a-ma-jig?

Tonight I decided to finally change that burned out light bulb that is just out of reach even though in the past when I’ve tried to change it I’ve nearly killed myself stumbling around the bed atop some pillows and small footstool, but what can I say, fashion called for it. I literally couldn’t06d569c0-a0a7-4a3d-b0d9-3606c9910144 tell navy from black, and most women know that navy and black are two totally different things. First I put my laundry hamper face down on the bed. Then I stepped on top, and, boom, it caved. Okay, don’t give up. I then piled two pillows on the bed and sprung up onto them grabbing the light fixture with one hand. Probably not one of my best moments, practically dangling from the light fixture. In any case, I ended up changing the bulb, possibly with some strained muscles as a result.

After changing the bulb, I began cleaning up the house. After all, my sister is coming, and she’s only been to this apartment once before. Laundry put away, check. Kitchen clean, check. Then, while laying out a sweater to dry, I spot a strange item, a wrinkled, shriveled piece of cardboard on the ironing board. I pick it up to examine it, squinting in wonder and confusion. How did this get here? I don’t even know what it is. Did Mark leave this here? He’s always leaving strange things around my house, like stuff out of his pockets. But even if it was his, what is it?

It’s funny how context can really help us discover what something is. I turn to take the item to the trash, when out of the corner of my eye I see the light bulb box. I pick it up too and begin to close it when right there, I see what the shriveled cardboard is. It’s the padding that was wrapped around the new bulb!

This is how people can perceive our identity if we don’t know our purpose. See, I didn’t know the purpose of the shriveled piece of cardboard, and it only confused me the more I looked at it. If we don’t know what our purpose is as children of God, people may look at us as if we are an unknown, someone wandering without a path, but as children of God we already know that living for God and being His disciple is our purpose. We also know that God knit us when we were in our mother’s womb for a particular purpose and a specific path. If we know this, then we don’t need to know what tomorrow holds to be obedient disciples and let God’s particular purpose and path for us unfold. When people see that you know who you are in Christ, they won’t squint in wonder, but they will say, “Hey, that person is really secure in who God made them to be.” Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

I encourage you to be more than a thing-a-ma-jig (something that has no identity), but live out your identity and purpose as a child of God.