Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Why should I serve?

This world is broken and I'm busy. I work 5 days a week, go to church, and reach out to my co workers and friends. Am I really supposed to serve beyond that? Why does service really matter anyways?

I get you. I hear you; I really do.
But these are excuses- and quite frankly, they are really lame. We have to take responsibility for our life, habits, and choices. Why can't we come to grasp that the only thing that really matters is what we do for Christ? Why can't I understand that- why am I so distracted?

I was fake interviewing some church friends and single adults and asking them what they did after work- how they spent their time. Their answers were very mundane. Let's see, they wash clothes, exercise, knit, cook, and read. What a dream life right? I understand that God asks us to be faithful in the small things; I do think responsibilities matter; more importantly relationships matter. But what about living for Jesus in a radically different way than the rest of the world?

I met a nursing coworker yesterday who asked me why I came to Chattanooga. When I told her about the Adventist community here, her response was this "I used to not know anything about Adventists- think they were weird- and now I know they are just like everybody else."

It shocked me, totally silenced me, you can't rebuttal that. Ouch is the simple response. But it gave me a sense of urgency to go back to the ABC's of Christianity and question what does it mean to live for Jesus? What does it mean to know Him and be changed? And I think a key aspect to Christianity is taking up our crosses beside Him. It's service.

Ellen White writes that "In many cases the rubbish of the world has clogged the channels of the soul. Selfishness controls the mind and warps the character. Were the life hid with Christ in God, His service would be no drudgery. If the whole heart were consecrated to God, all would find something to do, and would covet a part in the work. "

We would covet a part in the work. We would be excited- our hearts would be on fire; we would be passionate again. What would it be like to be a God-follower that experienced joy and passion during the week because of our love and service for Jesus? Service has the ability to totally set our hearts on fire- to change our lives around- to give us an opportunity to participate in the fellowship of service with Jesus.

Service helps us overcome selfishness. It teaches us to count our blessings. There are so literally so many amazing things about service and ways it can change our lives and yet so often we sigh and grudgingly help. We don't ask God to radically open our eyes to where He is asking us to minister.

Personally, I MISS service- like a homesick, deep longing for the meaning and fulfillment that service brings as well as the connection to Jesus. I miss working as a missionary at an orphanage in Peru- feeling like I was actually connected to Christ and able to minister to the girls who were there. I miss children's hospital ministry: leading groups to the hospital to sing and dance and make kids laugh who were in pain or who had terminal diseases. And I miss summer camp- I miss getting to counsel kids and teach them what it meant to follow Christ. I miss organizing the Passion play and getting to act like an angel, writing the story of how "Jesus changes lives." I miss service so much and if I would easily say that special memories I have when I gave my time and energy to Jesus were the best experiences and most joyful experiences of my life!

I truly believe service can be something we love. It doesn't have to be forced, or just fulfill a time obligation. God created us with gifts with passions and with feelings- He created us to be alive and to get excited- about helping others.

If you're like me and your not currently involved in service- maybe you're thinking back to a time in your life when you were- and you remember the joy it brought, I challenge you to ask God for a ministry. Ask God where you can serve. And then truly prepare your heart for the unexpected.
God might be calling you to something right in front of your face, like getting involved with your local church more, or He might be asking you to do something crazier like starting your own project or going on a mission trip.

The thing is God doesn't just ask us to get involved with service and His ministry when we have more time, or if we feel like it. In His Word He demonstrates that we were created to serve; that He lived a life of service teaching us how to use our hands and feet to touch others. In Matthew 25:40 it says "The King replied, Truly I tell you whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters you did for me." Do we know Him? Do we truly know Him? And if we know Him, do we take the time to find Him in the least of these and to serve Him?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

How Independence Kills Relationships

I cling to independence like my skydiving instructor. It's my trophy and confidence. If you can convince yourself that you are brave, smart, and invincible- it's so much easier for the rest of the world to believe in you as well.

And after all, who wants to depend on others? Who wants to be insufficient to provide for their own needs? If we can make our own money, travel the world, adventure alone- we can do it all right- we don't need anyone.

And if I don't need anyone.. then maybe I don't want anyone.
No more opinions about where I'm going, what I'm watching. No more nosy women and bratty kids.. YOLO I can do my own life exactly how I want because it's MINE.

Or slavery. Depending on how you look at it. Go back in time to meet God's law protecting angel Lucifer. Lucifer was intelligent, wise, he thought he was set apart, thought that maybe he was something special. Maybe he could be good- maybe he just wanted to fly solo for a bit... Just wanted to try and see what he could do on his own.

Relationships take work and sacrifice. Independence just takes a belief in oneself and fulfilling one's own desires. It seemed so fast that one third of the angels were cast down from heaven with ring leader Lucifer of independent self-sufficiency.

And after him, it seemed we all wanted to know what it was like to make our own choices, experience our own "freedom", without considering the consequences and costs to others.. Eve thought of herself and ate accordingly, Adam blamed Eve, and they decided to hide from God. Sin makes us want to run away from our Creator who can fulfill our needs and teaches us to work our desires for ourselves- independently from Christ and each other- we try to meet our own needs and end up addicts to our own games.

Independence is a plan to lose because at one point or another, we realize we are not the super star we always thought. We are not invincible- immortal- or wise. We are not without sin, and we will fall captive to temptations and disappointments. Sooner or later we forget the childhood stories of "you can do anything" and we realize we are just like the other people in the world. Sad? Maybe. Yet knowing this about ourselves: that we are broken, insufficient humans should give us courage and hope.

The reason why is we can stop believing in ourselves. We can let go of our high expectations. We can meet the Savior that never wanted us to live independently- but wanted us to look for Him for every breath of air and ounce of courage. We can learn that this world does not revolve around us and we can join hands with the body of Christ.

Independence kills my relationships because relationships are other-centered and independence is a rebellion of me-centeredness. What I want shouldn't be the deciding factor. We have to get beyond our own thoughts and expectations, and begin to look around at other people, and most importantly upward to the face of Christ. God is not a God of independence. He is a trinity- three persons- illustrating a deep relationship of sacrifice and other-centeredness. Jesus is the example of pure love- sacrificing His desires- to give us a freedom that can never come from trusting ourselves.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Why I'm Intentional About My Friendships

I talked to a friend a couple days ago, that I hadn't seen in a few years. He told me that besides from one other couple, I was the only friend back in Chattanooga that he still spoke to once in a while. I found that surprising and terribly sad because we've only talked a few times. Yet after saying that, he told me that he didn't try hard to keep in touch and that he appreciated my intentionality with his friendship.

It really saddened me and I think it's often true, that as a society, we lack communication skills, we lack friendship skills, and we often struggle to keep long distance relationships alive. It's easy when we see people on a day to day basis, even once a week or month, but what happens when life's circles no longer meet so carelessly. What happens when the convenience is taken out of the relationship or distance, challenges, and barriers are stacked in between.

I am intentional about my friendships and I don't take them lightly. The reason why that is, is because I know what it's like to not have any friends. I know what it's like for the people you know to be stripped away, for distance to ruin everything, and to have to try and try again to create new friends that don't understand or see you for who you are. I know how hard it is to find true friends, to find amazing friends which I'm blessed to have now- but haven't always had.

I remember hiding in the bathrooms during lunch at middle school, praying for someone to sit with on the bus, and even freshman year at college at times wishing I was invisible. During these times, I had friends- but they were miles and miles away. Yet these friends kept me going. I texted them; I called them; I learned how to keep in touch. And while I hid for a long time and struggled to make new friendships in new environments, eventually I believe I improved a little in my friendship making skills.

For a long time I prayed for solid friends. Friends that would see me for who I was as a person and choose to accept the good and the bad. Friends that were of character and could relate and encourage my walk with God- not trying to lead me astray. Friends that wanted to hang out with me, and were close to me like brothers or sisters.

For a long time I waited. And then a few years ago, God began answering my prayers. I'm so beyond blessed and thankful for the friends I have in my life. I don't just have a few but I feel like I am surrounded by such community and love, some friends here in Chattanooga and many in Alaska, Oregon, Oklahoma, and around the world. My friends are the BEST- literally, I don't know what else to say- but they are dream friends.

I don't know how you feel about your friends, if you feel like you have many, or if you identify with struggling to find people that genuinely care about you and see you for who you are. I know that God answered my prayer, yet I know that having friendships doesn't mean I'm good to go. I know that relationships require work, commitment, and sacrifice. And that keeping friends is quite the trick as making them.

If you are lonely, I encourage you to reach out. To believe that God has made you individually and wonderfully and to have the courage to share your life with someone else. Sometimes you have to be the bigger person, you have to reach out and be more vulnerable first. And I just hope you know that you are loved and that your friendship status doesn't define who you are as an individual- that you are a child of God.

And if you have amazing friends, like I do, let's treasure them. Let's be more intentional. Let's love them with a deeper love. Let's be the dream friends that see the best in each other and reach out to serve. Maybe our friendships can testify of the love of Christ- may they be genuine and pure.

Friday, January 12, 2018

To Know Him

I watched with wide eyes as he smiled at the waiter. His stories could make the whole room laugh and yet he was different, he was kind. I knew that if only I could get to know him.. we could be friends. What could I do to get him to notice me? I wanted to meet this man so badly..

Friends, do you want to know Jesus? Are you curious about the man who touched the lepers, who was friends of the rejected, and yet could outsmart the Pharisees? Do you wonder what it would be like to know a Healer, to know a King who could pay your debt?

Do you want to know Him?

Because I do.

When I see Him, my eyes look up from the ground and I begin to see the people around me differently. When I talk with Him, He teaches me to talk just a little bit less- to listen to the people around me more. When I hear Him, I walk more gracefully. My steps become softer and purer and I don't get lost. When I touch Him, I find confidence to face my fears and live a life of higher calling. Friends, when I met Jesus, He changes me. The very presence of Christ gives me a power beyond myself- gives me a family in a heavenly kingdom.

And yet so often, we say we want to know Him. But we don't talk to Him. We say we want to know Him, but we don't read His word. We say we want to know Him, but we don't take the time to meet Him. We get busy, our eyes wonder, and we forget about that mysterious, kind man.

When life is good it's so easy to forget.

But then something happens, our life changes, we experience change, disaster, loneliness, longing. We're walking through the motions, going about our business, when from the window.. we see the man again.

And this time. We don't just watch him, we don't just look from afar, or stare. This time we open the door, we run into the restaurant, and we meet Him. With anticipation and passion and hope, we say "Jesus I want to know you."

And he reaches out his wounded hands, warmly embracing us, calling us by name, He whispers "I know all about you, and I love you, oh how I love you."

Monday, January 8, 2018

ASK with confidence

"Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need."

It's always been hard for me to ask people for things. "Can you help me?" might take a few minutes of hesitation. I would rather try for 10 minutes, fail a few times, before surrendering to humility and asking something else of others. And yet so often I find that when asking for help, people are happy to help me. In fact, it often deepens our friendship and gives the other person a sense of pride and joy.

Someone who loves us, wants us to ask them for the things we need. Most people can't read our minds. God cans, but he still reminds us to ask. He says "You do not have because you have not asked". He tells us "Ask and it will be given to you.. for everyone who asks receives, the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks the door will be opened." In the Word we are constantly finding a God who showers blessing upon blessing, and unending grace like rain on believers who ask God for what they need and have faith that He will provide.

I think far often in our life, when we look at things we desire but do not have: may it be characteristics or virtue we have yet to develop, material goods and prosperity, or relationships like friendships and intimate partners, we may find that we have spent too little time on our knees. When Elizabeth wanted and prayed for a child, it took years and years for God to answer her prayer. It is important for us to remember that God's time is totally different than our expectations and not to lose heart when we have to wait.

To get something you have to know what you want and then ask the right person or work hard yourself to get it. That sounds simple right? Too simple. But too often I meet friends who tell me they are unhappy with how they are living- friends who fall into depression. And I ask them, What do you want? And they don't know. They don't understand why they are not making it. And thus they can't get the help they need to get out of bad situations.

It's a New Year, and this is your life, your choice. You have the power to decide how you will think about this year and how you will act. So it's important to consider what do you want? Who do you want to serve? Will you serve God or will you serve yourself and the Devil? What goals do you want to accomplish? What habit do you want to break or disciple do you need to develop?

Think about it. Pray about it. And when you know what you want, who you want to follow, who you want to be like, ask for help.

Have you prayed for it as much as you have complained, worried, or pondered it? Complaining hurts the relationships with the people around you, worrying can increase anxiety and harm your health, thinking is a good idea but your emotions and thoughts are often misleading.

But praise God, we have a loving Father that cares about us. He knows the desires of our hearts and He knows the struggles we fight daily. He loves to talk to us; cherishes the time we spend with Him; and He enjoys answering our prayers.

You don't have to "fake it til you make it" or pretend when you have a God who sees the real you and who wants to bless your life. Talk to Him. Ask Him with confidence because He loves you.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

For where you lack

The butterflies came back, more than butterflies, I think wasps have found a home inside my stomach: that kind of not sleeping, worrying, deep fear, and uncertainty. It's time like these that I want to run so far, so fast. I want to grab a guy and never let go. I want to be surrounded by blankets and people and soft music telling me "that it's going to be ok".

I don't feel ok. Life is not always ok. It's not promises and bows. And I can't drag my besties with me to my first day of work. I have to fight my own battles. I have to fight my own fears. We all do.

I remember this feeling all too well- flashbacks from 2 years ago- nursing school. Night before clinicals: not being able to sleep, just dreading what would come. I remember Peru- being forced to look my fears in the face and choose to fight.

And I remember what God did then. I remember that He was with me; I remember that He gave me strength. I remember that He covered my weaknesses. And that these times made our relationship stronger; more steadfast; more Father-daughter, Savior- saved.

Friends, we are all not enough. We are all lacking. And we will come to times in our life when we feel like this world is too scary for us, too big for us. Whether we have fallen in the mud, or are looking at a battle up ahead, trembling because we don't feel ready...

Somehow no matter how much we prepare, how much we practice, what we say, and how we pretend: the reality is we come up short. We lack. We fail. We fall. We hurt.

But friends, we have a safety for the battle. We have a "get out" when the war zone has destructed our suroundings. We have a Savior. And where I lack, His grace is stronger.

I don't know what battle you are facing in your life. I don't know where your coming up short. I don't know how you feel when nobody is watching, what you say and do- the things you are ashamed of.

But in my darkest nights, when I was running- I ran into Him. I saw my Savior clearer in my struggles than my most prosperous days. I can look back at the story of my life and truly say that Jesus was the reason why I am here and that I love Jesus because He saved my life.

And He can't save you when your playing "little miss independent". He can't save you when you have it all together. He came to seek and save the lost. And friends, we are lost. Why are we lost? Because we were born on this messy planet of sin. We need Him. I need Him.

So may you smile at the wasps, at the butterflies, because you know they will teach you faith. May you sing when your alone in the dark because you have a one-on-one date with your Savior. May you laugh at the hardships because you trust that God is coming through for you. May your souls rest in confidence because you know Him and His love for you. He has your back and He covers you where you lack.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Stop Loving Yourself

You see all these advertisements and inspirational slogans saying "Love yourself."
"Take time to love yourself this season" Pamper, indulge, prioritize you, you first...

Well that's a lie, that's not Biblical in any way.

The very definition of love involves someone else...  It's something we humans can hardly comprehend but even Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines love as a) strong affection for another b) or unselfish, benevolent concern for the good of another

Love by definition is self-sacrificing and other-centered. "If you lock yourself alone in a room and stay there for the rest of your life, you will never experience love (truthlink).

John 15:12 says "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." And John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."

We can try to love ourselves all we want: indulging in consumerism, food, hobbies... but it will leave our souls empty. Because we were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) we were created with a desire for relationships. a desire to rely on the love God has for us, and to love others.

Friends, we don't understand what love means. And until we get it right, our hearts won't be full. We will only find true purpose and satisfaction when we are beholding Christ's character and His glory and choosing to reflect it.

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions in truth." 1 John 3:16-18