Saturday, April 22, 2017

kindle the flame

This weekend I had the opportunity to go camping with friends for my birthday. It was such a blessing and it just really showed me how many people God has put in my life that love me and care and are authentic friends. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude.

I love camping, but sadly I never sleep well when I camp so I normally just wake up pretty early, hike around, and enjoy the sunrise. This morning though I was a little chilly, so I decided I would try to start the fire. Now I would call myself a fire building novice in general but I CAN START A FIRE. Spending time in Alaska last summer definitely taught me some essential fire building skills but never before have I started a fire without matches or a lighter.

This morning though I didn't have matches and didn't want to waken my friends so I decided to arise to the challenge of lighting a fire with ashes from the night's before and a little paper and twigs. It took a long time of moving little sticks and pieces of paper around, blowing, and snapping wood.. but finally a small flame came to be. And from that flame, with much more work and time and care, I was able to ignite a large warm fire

2 Timothy 1:6 "For this reason I am reminding you to fan into the flames the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands."

I also love the Pathfinder song.. "It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up to it's going. That's how it is with God's love once you experience it. You spread his love to everyone you want to pass it on."

I think the foundation of the fire is the most important part to determine how long it will burn. How you lay the wood and sticks and how close you put them together determines the outcome of your fire. If your wood is too far apart, when you light it, it will go out quickly after it burns.

Likewise we need Christian fellowship and encouragement. How can we remain strong in Christ without brothers and sisters that challenge us to grow and uplift us when we are weak? What can be more encouraging than testimonies by believers in a community? If we want to grow in Christ, we must set our weak selves up for success by choosing mentors and wise believers in the faith that love God like we do.

The song says that if we are experiencing God's love we will want to pass it on! Ellen White says that if we are of Christ our sweetest thoughts should be of Him, that we should want to talk about Him all the time to our friends. Sometimes in this day and age, I hesitate to bring up the name Jesus to friends I don't know super well. But sometimes when I take the risk and start a conversation, people open up and share and stories arise of how Christ is at work or how they need prayer. Talking about God and struggles and being vulnerable is so important.  Nothing encourages me more than hearing how God is at work in the lives of my friends and family! They keep my fire going.

I've been so blessed by God to have so many amazing spiritual friends but I haven't always felt like I had such a close knit spiritual community. It takes effort to create authentic Christ loving fellowship and to help kindle each other's fires. I want to encourage you that relationships are so important and do truly make an eternal difference in Christ's kingdom. Let's kindle the fire, don't let it go completely out, let's help our brothers and sisters to stay ablaze.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Back to basics

"If there is one word that would shape and identify who we are, what we do, how we do it, when we do it, where we do it, why we do it, and to whom and for whom we do it, it should be the word love." -Peter Prime

Think about your day and everything accomplished, specifically the motivation behind each task. What was done in or for love? And not the kind of love that we read about in books or see in romantic movies? What was done in the love that is of God, the sacrificial, gentle, patient kind of love? What was done to show our love to God or our love for our friends?

Sadly enough I think that many of us Christians, including myself sometimes, could look back on our day and pick out one or two things that we intentionally did in love. And we can lay in bed utterly exhausted and drained and not be experiencing the love of Christ. And my question is this.. If we can go to church week after week, go to a Christian school, be involved in community service, be studious, serve God as a missionary... what is the point if we don't know the love of God personally? It's worthless. What we don't do in love for or with God or for the people around us will not matter eternally.

In John 13:35 Jesus says that love is the ultimate evidence by which the world should be able to distinguish his disciples. And so often I have to wonder do I really love people enough to look different than the crowd around me?

At my university we are constantly getting preached at "that Jesus loves us" and while it is nice to be reminded of the love of God it is almost demeaning the value and the principles behind who God is and what His love can do and really means.  What is love? To even begin to understand love we must study the Word of God but to gain love we must truly experience Him. Personally I believe this is why so many millenialists and younger people are leaving the church. You can say tell them Jesus loves them but unless your loving them and the people around you in the same radical way they see right through you. And if they haven't ever known Christ and seen the way He actually wants to work in their life, changing their personalities and hearts, giving them that deep joy and peace, they cannot understand and don't care to pretend.

Friends, this love thing has been totally perverted by culture, by our selfish desires, and by friends in the church. Right now we are only scribbling on a chalkboard and barely scratching the surface just to see a glimpse of the love of Christ. "For now we see only a reflection as in the mirror; but then we shall see face to face."

Sometimes I have to stop and put a pause on "everything good" I think I am doing in life just stop and come back to the cross and say "Hey God I got lost I forgot that love was the only thing that mattered." When community service doesn't matter, grades don't matter, friendships don't matter, I know that nothing matters except for continually experiencing your love for me enough that it can be overflowing to the people around us.

Love is such a basic principle but the most beautiful, complex, and mysterious concept. It doesn't makes sense but  it's God's character- his  unchanging perfect self- and it's the only way we as Christians display his pleasing aroma to the world around us.

Monday, April 17, 2017

nursing tests

Before my first level 4 nursing test of the semester, I studied, prayed, and asked my friends and family to pray that I would do well. But at the end of the test I made a 75 which is 3 points below the passing rate. When I got my test results, I was frustrated and angry at God. I had studied hard and I had asked him to bless me. After the first test I doubted if I would pass level 4 and why God would call me to nursing to fail me.

After my second and third test (to which I greatly improved scores) and the day before my fourth test I was walking with God and I asked God out loud "Do you really care?" God do you really care about a test grade? After all, there are people around the world with so much bigger problems. Do you really care if I pass a test? Like how involved do you really want to be in my life?

It's funny because I knew the Sabbath school answer that I had been taught to believe at a young age- that yes God cared. And I had seen God come through for me before in other aspects of my life that showed He cared about the little things. But when we are in trials or fearful, Satan wants us to forget those times, and I was honestly questioning God "Do you care about my grade?" "And why do you care?" Why does it matter to you?

I don't remember how exactly the answer came about but it came quite clearly in my head and I felt Jesus reminding me that He cared more than even my earthly father cares. Before the level four test I was gifted with great peace and I was reciting Bible verses before the test and I did great.

Today I took my final of level 4 and I passed the class- something in the beginning I thought would be impossible to do- Christ has truly done through me and I give Him all the glory and honor. Each and every nursing thing- overcoming hospital fears and natural barriers- he has given me the strength to persevere and even given me passionate about helping those who have physical needs.

I know there are those today in my class who didn't pass level four who were also praying about their grades and I know that it is extremely tempting to blame God and think that He doesn't care, but I want to encourage you with every aspect of your life- even things that may feel trivial- Jesus cares. He loves us more than we realize and He wants us to trust us with everything and anything on our hearts and minds.

So pass or fail let us glorify the Lord- for He alone is worthy to be praised. And remember when you feel like no one else cares- Jesus always cares.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Staying Christian

It's funny because every once in a while someone makes this comment to me about how good of a Christian I am. And I HATE it when people say that because they are generally narrowing my life to a list of things I do or don't do, or generalizing my personality into being a cookie cutter Jesus loving freak who has no selfish desires or even struggles with sin. And they make my life look and sound so easy... like following Jesus for me isn't difficult at all. And I'm like, honestly? Do you even know me?

Because yes I love Jesus and praise God you see Him in me (that would be a miracle) but the struggle is as real for me as it is for you. (Ask my brother ;)

Sometimes I don't feel like a good Christian. I don't feel like being nice. I don't feel like reading my Bible, listening to Christian worship music, or being kind to people. Sometimes instead I want to watch Netflix movies instead of having worships or gossip or lie instead of having painful conversations. And maybe you say that's nothing compared to my sins? Well to God it's all a level playing field and often Satan loves to start ruining our lives by creeping into the smallest "harmless" activities.

My moods contradict often contradict Christ's character when I struggle with feeling selfish, anxiety, depression, lusting after things or humans instead of Christ... If I fulfill my feelings and momentary desires I will be reaching for things of the flesh like guys to talk too, friends who satisfy my immediate needs by telling me the right things, activities that seem like fun but hurt my purity and brain overtime, or even making idols out of school or work.

The world, and often my friends, may justify me for giving in to some of these desires. After all, all Christians "need a break" right; should "lighten up" and "everything is good in modesty" right. If it's not an addiction and it's just a one in a while thing is it ok?

Trust me, I'm just like you, I struggle with selfishness, self-worth, and waiting and following God. I struggle with the desire to read my Bible. Spending personal time with God daily is not always easy.
But here's the thing guys it's SO Important.

Becoming Christian isn't some one time thing, it's not a great story that happens and then you get there. There will be highs and lows and there will be those great miracles that God does in your life. I know I feel like parts of my testimony are really powerful but then there's other times when I'm just like "I need help" times when I am hurting and feel alone in life or in my faith.

For me  the hardest part of following God for me is staying Christian in the day to day grind of life. Like how do you stay close to Jesus without falling away, without giving in to the mood swings, without getting distracted from the things this world throws at us to distract us? And I believe that also the most powerful part of our testimonies is the waiting part, it's the dark before dawn, it's the preparation period where we chose to be faithful- where we chose to stay Christian. And not just "Christian" in that we went to church and claimed the label but where our day to day walk shows us daily surrendering everything to God, praising Him daily, experiencing His true joy.

Friends, we are often so impatient. We are taught that we should be able to get what we want by taking the quickest route, maybe even the drive through. Pit stops to Starbucks for a latte are encouraged as long as we don't get too off track. But the journey to God is so unlike anything else on this planet. It is a long life changing process where God literally strips us away from self and everything from our old life. It is not fast and short cuts will quickly lure us to Satan's counterfeits. Pit stops are dangerous where the devil waits to tell us lies.

The point of me writing this is that I want to share that I am just like you- a struggling Christian. I believe we have to get beyond the comparing others relationships and take ownership for how our personal walks are going. If I am not actively reading my Bible and prayer that is no one's fault but my own and if I cannot share how Christ has been working in my life in the past week, maybe He has not been working.

My life has not been easy or perfect. I've had my own personal struggles and journey with God just like you have. And even though I've followed God for a while, and spent times as a missionary and even as a camp "spiritual director"- every day for me is a totally new day to get to know who God is and see what He's doing new in my life. I just encourage you for one, stop labeling people and making assumptions, or trying to pressure them to meet your expectations .But for two, most importantly, take accountability for your own Christian life with God. Stay Christian and don't just stay on the fence but learn to be a mini disciple of Christ. Start focusing on Him instead of you and He will totally turn your life around and give you this crazy joy!