Who Have you Noticed Recently?

Working with a missions movement on a large campus, I get to wet my feet with a lot of different departments.  My main role is to offer sound Biblical teaching and training to missionaries, leaders and pastors both locally and overseas.  However, because the YWAM campus is run completely by volunteers, it means that sometimes I get to do what some might consider a practical or logistical job.  I’ve spent many hours helping to cook meals for the hundreds of students on campus and had countless conversations while serving lattés out of our Coffee Bar. Just recently, I was asked to serve in the Admissions office which basically acts as a call center contacting potential students.  

Inspiration is only true inspiration if we take action…

My first day in that office, I noticed that another fellow missionary would constantly be asking on the phone how she could pray for the person on the other end of the line – and then she would stop right there and pray for them.  I’ve always felt uncomfortable talking on the phone, and even more so receiving prayer over the phone. I never imagined that I could actually pray for someone I couldn’t see. But this girl really inspired me and I told her so. Inspiration is only true inspiration if we take action, so with this conviction I spent my second day in the Admissions office determined to press through my awkwardness and pray for someone on the phone.

But this isn’t about me and how I made a change because I was inspired.  Rather, this got me thinking about how often I notice others. I’m usually so busy in my own world, thinking about what I’m doing and what I want to do that I don’t bother looking around to really see others.

When was the last time you smiled at someone you didn’t know?

I want you to pause and think about the last time you offered someone outside of your typical social circle a compliment.  When was the last time you noticed someone wearing a frown and gave them a hug? When was the last time you smiled at someone you didn’t know?  When was the last time you asked someone how they were doing, and listened to their answer instead of  wishing they would ask you about the hard day you’re having?

I’m constantly guilty of living in my own world.  I drive to work, walk to my desk, stare at my computer screen and interact with the same people every day.  I follow my routine almost to a T, walking out of the office at 5pm before I go back home where I typically throw on my pajamas and curl up with a good book.  My daily life doesn’t naturally warrant a lot of time around people outside of my social circle and, unless I choose to look up, my life is essentially spent looking down.

I am going to take a wild guess and suggest there are others who can relate to my life.  I’ve found this very challenging and, because I’m someone who is all in, I decided to face this challenge head on.  And you know what? It’s amazing how simple it is to smile at someone or say hello or encourage someone with how you witnessed them do something they thought had gone unseen.  It’s also amazing to witness the change come over people as they realize their small and humble act of kindness or hard work has been truly seen.

We need to notice those around us and make a commitment with ourselves to take the time to acknowledge others.

Not too long ago, I had the honor of welcoming leaders to a youth convention where they had committed to mentoring teenagers over a holiday weekend.  For many of those leaders I took half a minute to thank them for choosing to spend time discipling youth over what could have been 3 glorious days of rest.  Often, these leaders had looks of trepidation when they arrived to check in with me for the weekend, but their uncomfortable looks quickly turned to hope and relief when they recognized that somebody had noticed them – even if it was for a brief second –  and acknowledged the work that they put in to ensure youth are loved by Jesus. While I was welcoming those youth leaders, I was reminded of the phrase by Bob Goff when he says to “spread kindness like confetti.” The thing is, in order to actually accomplish this, we need to look up.  We need to look out.  We need to notice those around us and make a commitment with ourselves to take the time to acknowledge others.

A few years ago a friend of mine asked the question, “Is my life interruptible?”  Or am I too busy with my agenda that I can’t stop to affirm someone even if God dropped that person in my lap?

Who have you noticed recently?   Who is it you welcomed with a smile?  Whose efforts have you acknowledged and affirmed because you noticed their hard work or their kind interaction with someone else?  Who is it you wrote a note to, asking how they’re doing, just because? If you can’t think of a single name, then I challenge you to take this on.  We’re all in this together and when we notice others we bring a little more Jesus to this world.

 

Interested in missions? Learn more about our Discipleship Training School (DTS) at YWAM Montana!

DTS is a 5 month missions and discipleship program.  The first 3 months you’ll go deeper in your relationship with God and the last 2 months will be spent with your team on an overseas outreach making God known in the nations.

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Hope is Terrifying

‘“About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.”  “No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!” But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.’

…he was offering her a hope that she had long stopped believing could exist for her.

This interaction can be found in 2 Kings 4 between Elisha and a woman from Shunem.  She had housed Elisha and to thank her Elisha asked what he could do for her. She was quite settled and didn’t need anything, but Elisha’s servant informed him that she was barren.  When Elisha realized what she desired and how it was something only a sovereign God could do, he made a bold promise. In doing so he was offering her a hope that she had long stopped believing could exist for her.  Her reaction is very human, and it’s one of fear. A similar reaction is seen in Sarai when she’s told she’ll have a son, only her disbelief is expressed in a mocking laughter. Both reactions are incredibly human, and while I’m not convinced these stories should be used solely to prove that God makes barren women capable of conceiving (though He certainly is able), I think we can all see a piece of ourselves in the women.

As I studied the story in Kings a little while ago I connected with the lack of hope these women had.  I started to realize for so long that I saw hope as something that falls into the sphere of being positive.  While some could continue to argue that, I am going to suggest that hope is deeper than just a positive way of thinking.  This isn’t meant to sound negative, because hope is certainly not that either – hope is terrifying.

I used to think hope was made up of the things that would make me feel good.

It’s easier for us to write our own scenarios with sad endings than it is to write positive ones with happy endings.  I know growing up I was always fantasizing about finding the perfect guy who was so romantic and thoughtful and extremely good looking.  When I’d like a guy I’d dream about long walks on the beach at sunset and our wedding day and the home we’d build together. Usually I’d have our life planned before he even knew I was interested.  I used to think that was hope. I used to think hope was made up of the things that would make me feel good. However, I started to learn that fantasizing wasn’t a good way to live, and it actually held me back from being myself around the guys I was attracted to.  

As the fantasizing died away, my response when I liked a guy turned into never letting myself hope things would work out – because in my mind hoping to be with him was synonymous with being with him. Instead, what I would do is tell myself to not dream of a future with the guy because he’d never be interested in me.  I’d tell myself I wasn’t pretty enough, wasn’t ambitious enough, wasn’t hard working enough, wasn’t worthy of him, wasn’t this, wasn’t that…  All the “wasn’ts” I could think of I listed off with ease. Why? Because if hoping was fantasizing, and fantasizing was wrong, then the opposite was to talk myself out of something so that if something did happen I would just pleasantly surprised.

Anybody else know what I’m talking about?

…it’s easier not to paint a picture of your future anymore.

Maybe you haven’t done this with another person in mind.  Maybe you’ve done it for a job and you’re wondering if all of your efforts were worth it, so it’s easier to tell yourself to settle than to work harder.  You’re in a marriage and things aren’t as smooth as you thought they’d be so it’s easier to prepare yourself for a hard blow than to see how your mindset needs to shift a little.  Maybe you’ve done this like Sarai or the woman from Shunem – you’ve wanted to be a mother but after trying all sorts of different ways it’s easier not to paint a picture of your future anymore.

I don’t think hope is painting imaginary happy pictures, nor is it preparing yourself for the worst.  So then, what is hope? I think hope is looking at Jesus. No, really. I think it is. That sounds cliché, but consider Hebrews 11:1, which may be one of the more famous Bible verses, when it says, “Now faith is the assurance of what’s hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (ESV)  Faith is what happens when you hope for something.  Hope is a necessary part of having faith.  If hope is looking to Jesus then faith is believing Jesus will take action in some form on your behalf.

If hope is the first step to having faith then I need to hope.

Hope is terrifying because usually we want things to work out a certain way.  But shouldn’t we, as believers, want things to work out Jesus’ way? Real talk – I don’t have a lot of faith Jesus will bring me a husband who will help me compromise (in a healthy way) on all of the dreams I have for my future – but I do have hope.  If hope is the first step to having faith then I need to hope.  It’s always going to be easier to laugh and tell God to not mislead us.  But it’s always way more worth it to hope. Hope doesn’t give us the answer or take away the shock of something good.  Hope is always still surprising, because good things from Jesus are always a joy to behold.

I want you to try hoping.  Hope a little more, and you’ll find your fears don’t grow but they fade away.  I’m sure you’ll find true hope doesn’t disappoint, because true hope redirects your gaze to Jesus and allows you to see your life through Him and the lavish love He has for you.

 

Interested in missions? Learn more about our Discipleship Training School (DTS) at YWAM Montana!

DTS is a 5 month missions and discipleship program.  The first 3 months you’ll go deeper in your relationship with God and the last 2 months will be spent with your team on an overseas outreach making God known in the nations.

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How God Spoke to Me Through a Lost Earring

I rarely wear earrings. But when I do, I often forget to take them off. Today, I glanced in the mirror and noticed that one of my fake pearl earrings was missing from my ear. These earrings were not anything fancy, but they were one of three pairs that I actually wear. Thus started the frantic search for my earring.

The tiny, white pearl was going to be almost impossible to see against the white carpet. As I searched high and low, I found nothing. I crawled around the ground feeling left and right, but still I found nothing. I retraced my steps back and forth, but still I found nothing. Eventually, I was able to find the back of the earring and hope was restored!

The search continued.

High and low. Nothing.

Left and right. Nothing.

Back and forth. Nothing.

As I was about to give up, I felt God ask me to pause and listen to Him. So, I sat down in the middle of my bathroom floor and asked God to speak.

…I was overcome by the need to drop everything and seek after Jesus wholeheartedly.

He called me to remember the Parable of the Lost Coin from Luke 15. The woman in this story, is searching for her lost coin and in time, she finds it. Jesus used this parable to explain to his disciples that those who seek after Him, will find Him when they search intently. Right there, in the middle of my bathroom floor, I was overcome by the need to drop everything and seek after Jesus wholeheartedly.

Some questions started to come to mind. Have I ever sought after Jesus as intently as I was searching after that lost pearl earring? What would my life look like if I searched after Jesus with that intensity? How could I live in a way where I am constantly looking for His presence high and low, left and right, back and forth? How could I pursue searching for His Spirit in both the small things and the big things?

 God is always waiting to be found by those who will turn and seek after Him!

That is the type of life I want! I want to be actively searching after God and after His presence. I want to be on my knees in worship and surrender. I want to seek after Him when I am driving to work just like I do in worship. His Spirit is always there. It is not confined to a building or a worship time or a specific person. God is always waiting to be found by those who will turn and seek after Him!

I would like to say that after this great encounter with God, He showed me exactly where my lost earring was but He did not. There is still an empty spot in my jewelry box and I have given up hope finding this tiny earring (especially after I vacuumed my floor). Though earring-less, I was left overcome by the wonder of God. He cares enough to break into the mundane things in my life and speak clearly. Even when I am not searching after Him wholeheartedly, He searches after me! Even when I search after other things, He calls my heart back to Him!

 

Interested in missions? Learn more about our Discipleship Training School (DTS) at YWAM Montana!

DTS is a 5 month missions and discipleship program.  The first 3 months you’ll go deeper in your relationship with God and the last 2 months will be spent with your team on an overseas outreach making God known in the nations.

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Your Beauty is Not Your Value

It was over – again.  The hope, unspoken, barely admitted, though thoroughly wrestled through, fell away like it had so often done before. As usual, there was someone more beautiful who was going to win. And no measure of compliments from my friends could convince me otherwise. The flattery simply falls flat when you know you are not the most beautiful one in the room. It is not that I think I am offensive looking by any means. But no matter how confident I am, the fact that I am not the most physically beautiful does not change. There are other people who take that trophy.

Does the reality that I am not the most beautiful make me un-valuable? I think there is a dangerous lie that lurks in the dark corners of our hearts that longs for love and it tells us that if we are not beautiful then we are not valuable.

And we believe it…

Regularly…

The amount of you who will want to try and convince me that I am beautiful will prove my point.  You believe that I need to believe I am beautiful. However, I think it is more important that I believe I am valuable.

…my level of physical beauty will never define me.

People often ask me how I am so confident. I am always slightly confused at this. My vanity driven life motto has always been, “Fake it til you make it,” which is usually in reference to learning to wear 3+ inch heels, and “If your hair looks good, you look good.”  So yes, wearing heels and having great hair can help me feel confident. In fact, when I do my makeup and wear an outfit that I know is flattering, I feel beautiful, and that adds confidence. But some days I forget that I have no foundation, I do nothing to my hair (besides load on the dry shampoo), I wear too many patterns and I feel equally as confident. On those days, I think, “If today’s the day I meet my husband, then he’ll like me with this face, too.” He will not only love me because I am beautiful but because I am also valuable. I am confident because even on the hardest, darkest, stormiest and gloomiest of days, I know that my level of physical beauty will never define me. I belong to something bigger than any standard of beauty this world defines.

That confidence is what carries me through. Especially on days like today when I saw a drop dead beautiful woman and I knew it was over. “What was over, Erika?” My chances of catching the attention of any man with her around. Life is not really all that different than it was last week, or last month, or last year. I blog about relationships and sexuality and my (perpetually non-existent) love life. Why? Because it is fun and I like writing and I think it is important to share life’s normal ups and downs with those who may feel the same.

Seeing this beauty who was killing my hopes reminded me of a conversation I had had some months previously with and incredibly brilliant group of friends. They presented me with a question about beauty I will present to all of you today: Are you beautiful?  

Is the more beautiful person more valuable?

I think it is a fair question. Beauty, like modesty, is a socio-cultural construct. Society has decided how to define it and there is no real consistency cross-culturally. You can look around and see an average looking couple and convince yourself that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. While simultaneously, you can look around and see there are some people who everyone could agree are the epitome of physical beauty. That begs the second: Is the more beautiful person more valuable? Of course not. That is why I can suggest I am less beautiful than the beauty who knocked me out of the running. No matter how I dressed myself up, I would still lose next to her. And that is a-okay. Because my beauty is not my value. Your beauty is not your value.

I cannot be more clear than that. We need to shift what is the foundation of our confidence from our appearance to our value and our value is found in Christ. It is Jesus who defines us 100%.  You may not be a beauty queen but that does not mean His plans for your life are not equally as valuable.

So, I encourage you all with this: beauty does not determine value. Value is found in our Maker and he decided you were worth more than life. He sent his only son to earth to die on the cross so that he could have an eternal relationship with YOU! I would suggest this means you are worth more than you probably know or believe.  

Interested in missions? Learn more about our Discipleship Training School (DTS) at YWAM Montana!

DTS is a 5 month missions and discipleship program.  The first 3 months you’ll go deeper in your relationship with God and the last 2 months will be spent with your team on an overseas outreach making God known in the nations.

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How You Can Find the Community You’re Looking For

I believe God created humanity to function as a unit. The Bible refers to the church as a body with many parts. Humans were built with the insatiable need for community and healthy social relationships. Science supports this idea. Chronic, long-term loneliness increases your likelihood for early mortality by as much as 26% (Holt-Lunstad, 2015).

While many of us long for community, connection, and deep relationships…we have very little idea of how to actually make that a reality in our lives

While many of us long for community, connection, and deep relationships, often people report those being much more difficult to find in the day to day. Compared to previous generations, we live further away from our immediate families and delay getting married and having children. Technology makes many jobs much less collaborative in a face to face way, not to mention the way social media has impacted our ability to relate to each other. Most of us would agree that while a sense of community might be something that motivates us or is something we long for, we have very little idea of how to actually make that a reality in our lives.

From living in a very close community setting, and from trying to create community in other places I’ve lived and worked, I would like to put forth some ideas on how to create a fulfilling community wherever you might be living.

 Community requires something of us, and often the first thing it will require is action.

1. You read the above right: You have to create it yourself. Be proactive. If you are sitting around waiting to be invited in by a group of people, who are likely feeling the same way you are, I would hazard a guess that you might be waiting a very long time. Community requires something of us, and often the first thing it will require is action. I am always surprised at how rhetorical we are with our invitations. We will simply suggest that we “hang out sometime.” But what if we were a little more specific? Try saying, “Hey, there’s a new coffee place I found that I really like, would you want to go with me next week?” If they agree, set up a time right away. This feels awkward at first, but no more awkward than continuing to bump into the same person with an unspecified coffee date hanging between you.

2. Step out of your comfort zone. When my husband and I joined a new church, we were there for a year and still barely knew a soul. We realized that we always arrived just as church began and (because we didn’t know anybody) were the first ones out the door when it ended. To be more intentional, we made a pact to stand in the lobby for 15 minutes after church every week, whether anyone spoke to us or not. For the first few weeks, it was incredibly uncomfortable, but sure enough, people started to recognize us from week to week. It was not long before we found some really wonderful friends.

Whether it is volunteering at a local non-profit, joining a small group, or going to school in another state — give it time.

3. Join a group and be willing to feel out of place for a while. No relationship happens in an instant. When I started homeschooling my daughter, we joined a co-op of parents and other kids. I did not know a single soul and I hated the first few times I went. I felt obnoxious, like I was trying to insert myself into a pre-existing group of friends. However, we had something in common so we started there. We talked about our kids and I asked for book recommendations. Slowly but surely, we found out that we had more in common than just the educational choices we had made for our children. One of my most cherished friendships ended up coming from that group and my life has been so much richer for it. Whether it is volunteering at a local non-profit, joining a small group, or going to school in another state — give it time.

4. If at first you don’t succeed…you guessed it. Try again. I have not been successful every time I have put myself out there. I have had movie nights that nobody turned up to and I have sat alone with trays of appetizers. I joined a “mom’s of new babies” group that I absolutely hated and I quit after 6 months. It is fine to change direction or to realize that maybe something’s not right for you at that time. But give it a fair shot! Do not be so afraid of not liking something that you never start to begin with.

We really are not all that different from each other. We are all looking for the same things. A sense of home, of family, of community, and of belonging. Jesus created you to have that. I would venture to say that you may be pleasantly surprised by how many like minded people (and friends!) you find if you are willing to take the first step toward the community you are longing for.

 

Longing for a deeper connection with others? Want to see what healthy community can look like?

Learn more about our Discipleship Training School (DTS) at YWAM Montana!

DTS is a 5 month missions and discipleship program.  The first 3 months you’ll go deeper in your relationship with God and the last 2 months will be spent with your team on an overseas outreach making God known in the nations.

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Start Acting Like a Grandma

I’m a youth ministry person through and through. I have absolutely loved getting to walk with several youth as they have wrestled through what it means to follow Jesus and know who He has made them to be. Recently though, I have found myself drawn to a very different crowd — senior citizens.

For the past few years, I have made friends with quite a few people well past retirement age. I think it started when I worked at a cafe and my regulars in the mornings were all people I could consider my grandparents — they always had quirky stories to share, knew how to make me laugh, distracted me from work and never quite knew when to stop talking. I embraced this and I felt like they made me a more patient, kind, and loving person.

My friend’s caption continued to share that a, “90 year old saint let my girl know she matters!” 

A year ago, I again found myself drawn to older people who were volunteering at a YWAM base for the summer. Any time I would eat a meal in the cafeteria, I would insist on sitting with my wise old friends. I could not quite figure out what it was I loved about them so much until I came across a post on Instagram. The post was talking about how seniors had taken time to invest in and listen to my friend’s 11-year-old daughter. Her daughter had shared that the older women she was surrounded by made her feel special and, “not just any kind of special, like really special.” My friend’s caption continued to share that a, “90 year old saint let my girl know she matters!” As I read that line, it suddenly struck me why I love spending time with people often close to three times my age —  they have a knack for making me feel like I matter. How do they do that? I believe, quite simply, it is conversation.

Never once while talking to someone over the age of 45 have I found the conversation in a lull that was desperately needing a change in topic. Lately, I have recognized how people around my age struggle to make conversation (and it’s not just a matter of the room being full of introverts who need a quiet space to think). I have noticed that I will introduce a topic, share a story or ask a question and nobody will respond in length or in detail.

…they were raised to make conversation.

The reason seniors do not function this way is because they were raised to make conversation. They did not get one way validation from Instagram. They did not shoot a text message and have to wait for a response. And they were not entertained by never-ending hours of Netflix. They did life with other people because that is what life was. The central way of being social was to (in fact) socialize, face to face, in real life, being physically present with one another.

What if we were more curious what someone might say in person, rather than what someone has posted on Social Media?

What if our lives were more about these kinds of interactions? What if we were more curious what someone might say in person, rather than what someone has posted on Social Media? What if I shared my photos with people I knew cared about me, rather than throwing them out to the world hoping someone might like the filter I chose? What if I sought to know others more than I look for my own recognition?

I think if I worked harder to know others then, eventually, the desire to be known in return would surface and we could get back to the golden days all of my senior friends still seem to live in. The days of constant conversation when there was no fear that silence would happen because someone always knew how to keep the crowd engaged. If I want those days back, I need to be the catalyst.

So, I am going to keep acting like a grandma in hopes that my young friends will see one of the most valuable things senior citizens have to offer.

Hopefully we will all look up from our smartphones and be the ones to initiate real life relationship with the people around us. Because they matter!

 

Interested in missions?  Learn more about our Discipleship Training School (DTS) at YWAM Montana!

The DTS offers 5 months of growing deeper with God and impacting the world with the gifts God has given you.

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Can I be Complete Without Marriage?

I’ve heard it suggested that marriage is the only place you can attain full intimacy with God. It seems that because Christian covenant marriage is the concession for full, and hopefully safe, expression of one’s sexuality, it is synonymously the epitome of intimacy.

However, I do not believe this is true.

Let me try to explain to you more of what I mean by looking at the life of David. David’s intimacy with God evidences that marriage isn’t necessary to achieve complete intimacy with God. For David, the promises God fulfilled in his lifetime were that He would give:

  1. David a great name (2 Sam. 7:9b)
  2. Israel a secure place with wicked oppressors (2 Sam. 7:10)
  3. David rest from all his enemies (2 Sam. 7:11)

David’s intimacy with God was dependent on God alone, not on David’s relationship with anyone else.

David’s intimacy with God was dependent on God alone, not on David’s relationship with anyone else. In today’s day and age, we tend to attribute the solution to our relationship angst (ie. not being known, wanting to do life with someone, sexual desire, longing for true intimacy) into getting married. There’s an unspoken, suggested answer that marriage will fix these problems, when this is clearly not what the Bible is suggesting.

Unfortunately, this perception is what permeates the thinking of so many young people. We often use the covenant marriage relationship as the example for what intimacy with God looks like — being fully known in all of our vulnerabilities.

There is, of course, a paradox in all of this because God ordained marriage in perfection by suggesting that it wasn’t good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). The question then becomes this: Was God suggesting that man cannot find intimacy with Him as long as man is single? If this was the case, then surely Christ in all of His humanity should have married. Or is He suggesting that being alone isn’t a lack of intimacy with God but rather, a lack of intimacy with another?

David was a man after God’s own heart and even though he made bad choices, (which ironically involved sex on occasion), he was still, as an individual, the recipient of an extremely intimate relationship with God. His life proves that intimacy with God doesn’t come through marriage, but from a life of faith that results in obedience to God. David starts off living in full obedience and openness to what God speaks through the prophet Samuel. However, later in David’s life, he turns away because of a lack of faith, obedience and therefore, a lack of intimacy with God.

It is by having intimacy with God that His kingdom is made greater. This happens with God but plays itself out in all relationships and experiences that we are a part of. As much as marriage is a God ordained covenant, it can be warped into a set of human ideals to achieve something it was never meant to offer on its own. Without true intimacy with Jesus, things will not ever be brought into their full potential – even a marriage. We have to be careful to present intimacy with God in a way that all people can experience, regardless of their relationship status.

 

 

 

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Be Counter-cultural

“…this Western Culture that we are a part of, no longer believes that there is any such thing as an absolute truth.”

You and I live in a world which stresses the idea that “truth” is a relative term. The vast majority of people we interact with on a daily basis believe, with ever growing zeal, that what is true for you, is not necessarily true for them. As a matter of fact, some insist that you cannot or should not attempt to convince others that what you believe to be true is the truth. You cannot declare that your God is the God, or that Jesus Christ is the way, or insist that Scripture is holy, inspired and therefore true because your truth is not their truth. And, unless they accept what you’re saying as their truth, then it doesn’t have to be truth at all. This world that we live in, this Western Culture that we are a part of, no longer believes that there is any such thing as an absolute truth.

My purpose here today is simple:  I want to encourage those of you who believe in the Truth, to continue standing up for the Truth and continue proclaiming it. I believe that most of you who are reading this probably believe very similarly to me – that Jesus Christ is the Son of the True Living God and that we (you and I) can base everything we know and everything we have faith in, on the Holy Bible.

So, taking a leaf out of the 80’s hairband archive, here is my message to you:

“Don’t stop believin’”

Our culture will continue to push back and attempt to tear down the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but I encourage you to hold fast to the truth! Become more and more emboldened to live out its message and be not afraid to tell everyone you meet about it.

“…standing for the message of Christ was more important than their comfort, security, or even their popularity.”

The first thing that I want you to understand is that this struggle between the people of God and the people of the world is not foreign within our history. Throughout the Old Testament we see that the people of God were always at odds with the culture around them (sometimes they resisted and sometimes they gave in…most of the time they gave in). Throughout his earthly ministry, Christ was constantly rubbing shoulders with the religious leaders who wanted him to behave the way that was culturally acceptable to them. Most of the disciples and apostles who followed  Jesus within 1st century Christianity forfeited their lives in their zeal and determination to show the culture around them that standing for the message of Christ was more important than their comfort, security, or even their popularity.

The goal of Christianity has never been to make a culture happy, or to ensure that everyone around you feels good about themselves. The goal of Christianity is to show the people around us genuine love by delivering to them genuine Truth. Our culture tells us that genuine love looks like coexistence and tolerance; but that’s not true at all.  It is not loving to know that the person next to you is dying, that you can save them, and choosing not too because the cure might offend them. The truth is offensive, and love can be difficult, but neither are apathetic or indifferent to the dire need of the world around us.

My encouragement to you today is:  Continue to stand for the truth and deliver the message of the gospel, even if everyone says that you are a fool, even if people turn away…don’t give up, don’t give in, and don’t quit or lay down. Deliver the truth in love and watch as God changes the world around you.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” (Hebrews 10:39)

 

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Do you Filter who God is?

It feels like now, perhaps more than any other time in history, we are a culture devoted to self. In the age of limitless information, how we relate to a God we can’t limit, matters.

“…in the onslaught of information that comes at us every day we need to be able to filter it somehow…”

There was so much more mystery in the past, reverence wasn’t all that uncommon. Now, I can search Youtube for a video of an open heart surgery on my phone while my car parallel parks itself. It makes sense that in the onslaught of information that comes at us every day we need to be able to filter it somehow, like asking the question, “wait, does this relate to my life at all?” This allows me, for example, to filter out celebrity gossip and I feel my life is the better for it. We simply don’t have the time or mental capacity to deal with all of it and so a filter is a necessary, and even a good thing. It can make us conscious of what we consume. It can also make us selfish. And sometimes, it makes it difficult for us to relate to God.

When faced with a God who is so big, whose personality and expression and voice are so vast, I think we struggle to take it all in. It’s too much information, so it seems we pick one attribute of His character, one partial-truth that we like and can fit on a t-shirt, and make that the only thing about Him. “Jesus is my homeboy” – I’ve always taken issue with that slogan and never really understood why. It’s not that He’s not a friend. He is. He describes himself as a friend and there’s even a hymn that truthfully proclaims, “what a friend we have in Jesus.”

“Introducing Jesus as your homeboy is like me introducing my husband as my roommate.”

Introducing Jesus as your homeboy is like me introducing my husband as my roommate. I can’t help but laugh thinking of his face if I ever tried that. I mean sure, I suppose it’s technically true. We do share a room. But it’s simplistic to the point of being offensive, isn’t it? When I think about who my husband is, a million images run through my mind. Him kneeling on the ground in a forest holding a diamond. Kissing me at the front of a church. Our first big argument, and the tears in his eyes as we both asked forgiveness. I see him in an ugly hospital rocking chair, holding our first child, and the expression on his face as he sees himself mirrored in a tiny baby girl.  I see him at the top of a mountain in his climbing harness and can hear him say “that feels like church to me.” I see him leading worship at the little church we helped start, and the guys who have always looked to him for leadership. I see him with a cup of coffee and one hand on the steering wheel on one of the many road trips we’ve taken together. I see the look on his face when he learned his dad was diagnosed with cancer. I have a million memories, not just of who he is to me, but who he IS. I can pick him out of a crowd by just the sound of his footsteps. I know him. I know him too well to be able to come up with a cute marketing slogan for him. Nothing would fit. Nothing would be enough.

“I want to run out of words trying to describe Him.”

I want my relationship with Jesus to look like that and more. To know the sound of His steps, to know His words, to know how He’ll react to a situation in my life because I know Him. I want to run out of words trying to describe Him. The beauty and wonder of it is that He has made Himself knowable. I can’t get over that. The Creator of galaxies and fireflies and everything between is constantly in pursuit of us, of you. He already knows more about you than even you do.

The only appropriate response to that kind of devotion is to spend our lives knowing Him – all of Him –  more and more. A friend recently prayed, “help us to reconcile Your holiness with our adoption.” That sounds like a great place to start.  Let’s be a people who don’t apply our own filter to who God is, but let Him define who He is and how we see Him.

 

Interested in missions?  Fill out the form below to learn more about our Discipleship Training School (DTS).

The DTS offers 5 months of growing deeper with God and impacting the world, all in a community environment.

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