Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

American Dream

Sometimes I just get so frustrated by materialism. WANT WANT WANT- There is always something else. You will never have enough. There will always be more, always better. When do you stop wanting things and say "Wow I am richly blessed." When will we be satisfied instead of wanting something more...

It's so easy to fall captive to lies and think that if we just had one more thing our life would be so much better.

Even if jewels or money isn't your thing, when will you feel self confident about your body, or when will your old backpacking gear suffice? Do you always need the new thing? Will we always compare what we have to other people instead of thanking God for what we have?

Money is such a root of all evil. I see it everywhere but the richer you get, the more money seems to be a problem. Yes the poor people have money problems too but often it's not their money that destroys relationships. But with those who have a lot of money, it seems that so often their lives revolve around money.

The American Dream is idolized in our culture today. In can come in different styles sporty, chick, musical, jock... but the result is very similar: hot girlfriend or boyfriend, lots of money, expensive getaway wedding, big house, expensive car, and eventually beautiful grandkids.

And the thing is everyone makes it sound so wonderful and lovely. The movies make life like that seem like a party, something that can happen to anyone who works hard. Music and magazines say work harder and you can have this dream life too. Work harder so you can be beautiful. Study so you can have a top executive career and make the biggest bucks. Flirt better so you can score the gold mine- the rich sailor from London.

But what if this American dream isn't reality? What if it is simply a dream? Wishful optimistic over the rainbow, Wizard of Oz kinda thing. Because I don't know about you, but I have never seen the American Dream in real life?

I've seen rich families, rich kids, cute couples, and perfect jobs, flawless girls, and chiseled guys that all feel depressed sometimes, get angry with their friends, and wonder if there's more to life... But I've never seen anyone live "happily ever after" because of what they have.

Some people think "it's ok to dream". Dream about being rich, dream about marrying the perfect guy, dream about Disney World, dream about that diamond ring--

But if we are followers of Christ. Doesn't He call us to a higher standard, a higher way of thinking.

In Exodus 20:17 it says do not covet. Have we forgotten this commandment? The definition of coveting is yearning to possess something that isn't ours. Thus Christ asks us to be thankful and content for what we have and not to constantly desire things He hasn't blessed us with.

The Bible also says that it is more difficult for a rich man to get to heaven then it is for a camel to go through an eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). As citizens of one of the richest countries in the world, the USA, I think we should take this verse a little more seriously.

God calls us to follow Him and throw aside anything that may cause us to stumble. If we want to follow Christ, we must be very careful where our thoughts and hearts may be leading us towards. If we find that we are seeking out possessions, other humans, boyfriends, husbands, or girlfriends over Christ- God says we must demolish these things so that they do not stop us from entering into Christ's glory.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Peace

Good food, m&m cookies, Christmas eve service, family together, pool, beach, rich presents. Many think that the perfect combination: the perfect food, the best decorations, and the entire family together will bring peace.  Maybe if we could just get our friends exactly the perfect gift and we could travel to the best destination then everyone would have fun and it would be like "old times".

But something always seems to be missing doesn't it? The entertainment isn't lively enough, we're missing someone in the family, the clothes under the tree are the wrong size, and the peppermint ice cream is too strong.

We always fall short of that perfect picture don't we? Or even we get that snapshot image to facebook post or mail to our family and friends.. it's a short lived pasted smile and when we fall asleep we wonder "Is this it?"

Is this the Christmas we have all been waiting for?
Or is there more?

I spent last Christmas in an orphanage in Peru. Honestly it was a dream come true for me because I had ALWAYS wanted to live in an orphanage. Somehow my friends helped me make it possible to give all 89 children in the orphanage Christmas presents. So on Christmas day my friend Megan and I woke up, ate a nasty Peruvian breakfast and then put on our Santa hats and hand delivered gifts! The orphans faces were indescribably beautiful and thankful! It was so fun to be a giver and so wonderful to spread joy with them. It was a Christmas like no other complete with a three hour late night dance party on Christmas Eve with all the kids in the orphanage.

I didn't look cute and wasn't dressed up. Didn't get alot of good food (for lunch my missionary friends did sneak us a little real food though). I was sweaty and stinky. But we told the children the Christmas story and I think that Christmas was the most "Jesus-like", heart-warming Christmas, full of peace than I have ever experienced. It was special- so special- I can never forget.

What is Christmas really about? And how can we find this true Christmas peace and joy?

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us."  

Isaiah 9:6-7
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

I find the most that Christmas is about sacrifice. John 3:16 says God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten son. For whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. Christmas is about Jesus' free gift to us of His son. Christmas peace is about being thankful for the free gift of salvation and about sacrificing our lives to show others about Jesus.

Thus to have a good Christmas? It's about the heart. It's about being thankful, loving others, loving God. It's about relationships.

What can we give to God this Christmas? What will you give to God this Christmas?

Monday, December 22, 2014

When you don't FEEL Jesus

Have you ever questioned your walk with God? Is it even real or did you simply make it up? Besides how could God use "sinful" you? What about when everything around frustrates you or you are tired of life? Where is God? Why can't you FEEL Him?

Do you ever wish that you could simply text God and He would text you right back? Better yet you could call Him and He would audibly speak with you? Or best of all He could hold your hand, walk with you, and carry you when you are broken? I wonder if God ever wishes He could be there for us in that "present" way.

My question lies: What do you do when you don't feel God? When you don't see the point or have any desire to read your Bible, to pray, to be kind, to love?

What are some things that could make you feel far away from Jesus and how can you be prepared to fight Satan's feelings of doubt, inadequacy, sinful lust and longings away from your life? How should we respond to un-Godly feelings?

I think some things that could make the God we know seem to fade from our hearts are forgetting to spend our quiet time with God, being with other sinful people, being in Satan's territory, Satan's temptations and lies in weak parts of our lives, dealing with difficult relationships, or uncontrolled longings for relationships, foods, drugs ect. As we trifle with the Devil's tools it becomes more and more difficult to desire God's word because we feel we are inadequate to read it. It's a deadly cycle that we must be cautious to avoid and prepared to fight off when we succumb to negative feelings, habits, or addictions.

Now the harder part of the question- how do we fight off Satan's tactics to deceive us?
First we must realize, this is war. He is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking for those of us whom He may devour. Thus we must be prepared and alert. The Bible says we must put on special proactive equipment to prepare for this battle. If we are not ready and not equipped, we may lose the war against our souls.

Ephesians 6:10-18 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. (Know that feelings do not dictate your relationship with Christ nor do they change the God you serve)11 Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Spend time with God making sure that you are following His instructions in all areas of your life not lacking one)12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Be aware that you must love and be gentle with all your family, friends, and enemies. They are not the problem- the Devil is)13 Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.14 Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, (Do not let small sins creep up into your life. If they have ask Satan to destroy them.)15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. 

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:18 with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints,

Friday, December 19, 2014

Burnt out on church?

There's this controversial article I find amusing about taking a break from church.
Read it here:
What are your thoughts?

On one side, I think it's a good idea to take a short break from church if you are not worshiping God there. I agree that it's a good idea to cut back on ministry and church activities and instead pursue prayer and simple meditation in God's word.

On the other hand, it seems a simple fallacy that stopping church attendance will miraculously help your spiritual life. I feel like the true reason why we are getting burnt out and why young people may be leaving the church is because they are not experiencing God. Maybe a person has wrong priorities, wrong motivation, or has a sin that is keeping them away from encountering Christ.

If only we could see God's plans for our lives and the adventures He wants to take us on- the things He wants to do in us. Our lives would be set on fire. But so often we lose Him.. and if we lose sight of Him we can no longer be the light or the salt for other people.

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? Matthew 5:13

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Exodus Road

If you are looking for a great book to read, I recommend "The Exodus Road". This story is real and deep exposing the truth about sex trafficking and rescue missions around Southeast Asia. The book challenges you to put yourself out there for God to use and take the initiative to love the people around you even when it may be daunting, terrifying, and uncomfortable.

Human sex trafficking is a crime and an evil far too unheard of. It is often well hidden from society but that doesn't justify it's existence by any means. For less than $100 hundreds of thousands of girls are sold into brothels every year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sleep Walking

Everyone's asking why all the youth are leaving the church
Maybe because it looks, feels, and smells like a foul cemetery. (ouch =/)

Why is it so easy to sleepwalk through spirituality, sermons, church, Bible classes?
Where is the meaning?
The point where it truly comes alive?
How can we know so much and experience so little?

"I'm tired of reading the Bible"
"I'm tired of turning on sermons and multi tasking and getting bored"
"I'm tired of being in Bible studies with fakes"
"I'm tired of people pretending to have it all together."
"I'm tired of feeling all alone when I should have brothers and sisters in the church."

I've seen alot of my friends fall away from God. Friends I thought had great relationships with Him chose to leave their faith-all of it- on the table in the search of something more. Something they weren't programmed to believe, something they could actually feel. And I've looked at them and questioned how it could happen, but then lately I've realized how easy it is to fall asleep and simply go through the motions in zombie- dream mode. How do we experience God, and develop a relationship with Him that's personable and meaningful instead of simply learning more knowledge?

This zeal for God.. this on fire, burning alive "Holy Spirit" passion is the only thing that will attract others to Christ. Nonbelievers want to argue science or logic with you, they have done their research. But what they lack is life, passion, purpose, hope, love, and joy.

But so often I look around me and I feel it's SO EASY to just fall in the cracks and lay on the churches grave with the sign "Christian check box here" and barely survive. It's so easy just to miss the Holy Spirit and just receive more facts... and like an overplayed song or workout the Bible just seems so boring.

It's funny because finals are coming up and I have this computer class that totally annoys me. The entire semester I have barely gotten by, mostly asking the computer class tutor to show me the correct answers without truly understanding the meaning. I have put in about an hour or two a week- the absolute minimum required for a descent grade- and it's all been fine, good and well, low A.

The problem comes now that we have a final exam- the TEST- for the computer class on Friday and because I have not understood anything that happened all semester, I doubt that I will be able to pull off a good score. The test will reveal my lack of zeal, dedication, and understanding for the subject of computers.

It may seem relatively easy to "scrape by" as a Christian. You may look around and find that you are in great company putting in the "minimum" or an hour to two a week- you know a five minute devotional every day. You do the drill, you're kind to others, and you even give $30 to charity around Christmas time. Yes you may feel like you have a descent grade and you are doing just fine in God's eyes. But what about when the testing day comes?

Is the Holy Spirit alive in you? This is the test of a true Christ follower =)

Matthew 7:13-14
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Titus 3:7
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Day by day

Day by day, it's gonna be ok
Follow Jesus, do it His way
When things get hard
Just push on through
Life will get better
He'll get you through

Day by day- my latest "miracles"

-I'm not in culture shock anymore. I understand America and I'm beginning to feel like I can fit in here.

-The hospital program, Christmas caroling, went so amazing. I was totally stressing over nothing. God worked it out- with just the right amount of people, drivers, and even two guitar players. I was so nervous I wouldn't be able to find one guitar player but I figured it was God's way of saying "I got this".

-I get to teach a fitness class next semester on strength training. I'm so excited =)

-My phone that was in shattered pieces finally got fixed. Every time I would look at it and be sad I would tell myself "my life is just like that; broken pieces" and God would remind me.. "in the hands of the very best artist and restorer".

- One of my writings got published in the Herald magazine and I got paid for it. I hardly even remembered I submitted an article.

God is good. He is so good. I often don't understand how I can be so blessed while others are not.
I feel like God says "You are blessed so you can bless."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why my life doesn't make sense according to the worlds standards

When people ask me what my major is? It's hard for me to respond.
Honestly, I'm embarrassed. Christ is humbling me.
I'm doing nursing. I NEVER wanted to be a nurse.
And I'm not in the program yet. I could have been in next semester but I feel that's not where God wants me. So I'm waiting. Waiting on God..
And in some ways, it's so frustrating. But in other ways, it's so beautiful.

According to the ways of this world, it makes no sense why I would switch to nursing. I HATE shots. I'm terrified of iv's. Hospitals are my least favorite place in the world. I don't like listening to "know it all doctors" and I don't want to be bossed around or clean people up for a living.

But the truth is I can see the fingerprints of God in this area of my life and it's beautiful. Because for once, it's not what I want. It's not my plans- it's His. And I feel that God has placed on my heart to be an orphan mom in Africa. I want to use nursing to take care of the kids at that orphanage. To be their mommy and take care of them when they are sick. I also want to take care of kids who have terminable diseases. I want to love them they way Jesus loved me.

To some people, maybe to you, you may say "that sounds sweet". Well isn't that a nice thought sweetie but you'll never get there. But I honestly have the utmost faith that Christ will take me to Africa and that He will use me beyond my imagination- not because I'm someone special or nice- just because I'm surrendering my life to Him. I believe that He wants to do these crazy things in our life. These things that are harder to explain to the average person you sit by on the plane.

And I'm so FAR away from where Christ wants me.
Yet the crazy thing is He loves me anyways and He never gives up on me.

This semester God answered a dream of mine that I had for a really long time. Ever since I was 10 years old I wanted to go to hospitals with sick kids and juggle for them. This year, I felt God telling me to go for it and I started a new ministry here at Southern called Com Passion. Honestly, trying to lead out in this has been harder than I have ever imagined it would be. But I have to have faith every week we go that God is going to bring the right people that need to go and that He will bless. I praise God because He is so good and patient. This Friday Com Passion is going Christmas caroling at the children's hospital. I'm really nervous because we need 15 people or I might cancel it. We need a driver and at least one guitar player. But I'm trying to trust God that He will provide. I'm going to bake some brownies and write some thank you notes to some of the nurses encouraging them as well this Christmas season. Please pray for our ministry that God will bless- it's His ministry not mine- and I know He loves each child in the hospital more than I do.

You may be like "oh that's cool your doing your dreams or you started a ministry, but I could never do that." But the thing is: You can. This is what God wants to do in us. He wants to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. He wants to come through for you and do miracles and show you His glory. I just challenge you to trust Him. Pray for opportunities to stretch your faith. Trust God, He is good and I am awestruck by His splendor.