Moments with great reward

It’s April! Can you believe it? Time really does fly by and we are reaching the final stretch to the end of the semester. In one month you all will be finishing up your classes and studying for finals. You’ll be packing up, cleaning and possibly showing up to graduation. Some of you know what your plans are for the summer and others of you are just starting to figure them out. Regardless if you are ready for it or not, the semester is coming to an end. I too will be packing up and leaving sooner than I am ready for and all that I want to accomplish between now and then feels so overwhelming.

Yesterday I met with a student who shared that her journey with God lately was revealing His reward for committing to put Him first. She explained that she so easily falls into the pattern of thinking and feeling she can’t intentionally fit time with God into the rest of her day.

All the while so many things where up in the air for provision and decisions in her life. She truly felt that once she made a priority to just be with God and make him first, he would provide for the time spent with him. Go figure that after putting it into practice she started experiencing provision and blessings throughout her week everywhere she went. God provided what she needed and rewarded her faithfulness to him with good things. Sadly, though I too have experienced these kinds of rewards in exchange for cherishing moments with my maker, the reminder was needed.

It’s so easy to get our priorities out of order and find ourselves just getting by holding on for dear life. Yet, if we would just put the author and creator of our stories first, I wonder what kind of impact it would have on everything else we only think we can manage on our own.  Let’s not buy into the lie that we will have time later. We will always be busy and there will always be something or someone begging for our time. As you start to fix your gaze on the finish line of this semester and school year, I invite you to remember the time is always now to make God your first priority. Commit your ways to Him and just watch for how he will show up and take care of all the rest.

“Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.” –Psalms 37:3-6

When darkness is brought to light

I think all of us could say that there are okay versions of ourselves and then there are the not so great ones.  There are days when I think I could pass as a decent human being, but in reality I am broken, flawed and sometimes just plain pathetic. I’m not proud to admit it and even as I write this my pride is licking its wounds with the honest confession of my imperfections. In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown argues that “connection is why we are here” and one of the things that will keep us from fulfilling this is our understanding of worthiness. We may believe that we aren’t enough and we trap ourselves in a cycle of shame from feeling worthy of connection with others.

This week I have had some personal failures that brought to light some not so great things I have let reside in my heart. I’ve tried to ignore it and deal with it on my own, with no success.  So my question is: what do you do when you come to the realization that you aren’t enough? The answer of course is Jesus. I mean that is the whole point of the cross and the gospel. He came because we aren’t enough on our own. We need him for every season of life we are in and honestly our stories aren’t that great to tell without them revolving around Him. But, oh how my flesh has fought to be enough on my own doing, which ultimately is the most frustrating part. As I fought, God kept convicting me and shedding light on the ugly inside of me that only He can take away. I finely put my fists down yesterday and repented of it all. It’s amazing the freedom one can know in simply crying out to God. I’m so grateful for how God pursues us even through conviction. Our gracious Savior knows that it hurts, but He wants what is best for us more.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Ephesians 5:8-14

Student submission: “Blessings and Redemption”

by Dana Johnson, WFU ’15

This past week I got back from the Dominican Republic. It was an exhausting, heart-warming, and enriching experience; I am so glad I went! While I was over there I felt like God was teaching me a lot about His purpose. Moreover, that there IS a purpose behind each situation and it is for His greater good. While visiting the families in Cielo, my team and I learned that a young boy around 11 years old, Moises, passed away on the Saturday that we flew in. My heart hurt. Why would God take Moises away from His family so young? Especially a family that doesn’t even have much to begin with.

 I wasn’t the only one that was feeling upset about this news. One of the leaders of Mission Emanuel reached out to Moises’ family to ask if we could visit and say a few words to the family. They agreed, and so we stopped by their house in the afternoon. We sang a couple of songs to the family and then Jack Larson, the ministry director, said some words, almost like a eulogy. He talked about how there are two different kinds of situations: situations where God is blessing and situations where God is redeeming. He talked about how Moises’ passing has caused a lot of grief–certainly not a blessing– so God must be redeeming something through his death, and as much as we may not understand that, we must trust in His promises and grieve with hope.
It turns out that after Jack finished speaking, the mother of Moises opened up and told us that Moises had said he was ready to be with the Lord. He was singing songs of praise before He passed away, and through his death his stepfather and another person came to Christ. Just as Jack had mentioned, God DID have a purpose behind Moises’ death. It doesn’t mean that the heartache that comes with losing a child will disappear, but it is reassuring to know that God didn’t take Moises for nothing. Moises is with the Lord now, and two more people have been saved through this hardship. Are there situations in your life where you are having trouble finding the blessing? Perhaps Moises’ story can encourage you to trust that the Lord hasn’t forgotten about you. His purpose is good, and He has a reason for His timing.

Which body part are you?

Is there something you want to be a part of? Does your life have a purpose? Is there something you want to belong to? Why am I asking these questions? Because lately I have been thinking a lot about the body and how we have forgotten it. Not our own body, but the body of Christ that is the church. I think our generation feels they are entitled to experience the kind of church they want, without asking what they can bring to the table in making a difference; they throw up their hands in the air and leave. Others of us are just easily overwhelmed by how being involved with the church or even just dedicated to our Christian journey can be so consuming of us. We don’t feel like we have the time or we lack the courage to give to God what he is asking of us and so we don’t bother to give very much of ourselves at all. This is not how it is meant to be. We will always be busy and there will always be something that we will find wrong in a group or organization, especially the church. At times it seems we are bold enough to express our opinions, but offer no action of simply being committed to show up and offer to be the change we want to see.

In Ephesians 4:11-16 Paul writes, “11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

Christ gave us the picture of the body for a very specific purpose. We all have gifts and something we can offer. Believing that you don’t have anything to offer is just excepting a lie for an excuse to be lazy. We each have something to contribute, stories that matter and the church is called to be unified with each contributing member. When we aren’t contributing and unified in the church, or worse let someone else serve in our place of the body, the church starts to look a little scary, much like a Frankenstein.  As a generation of young adults, this is not the time for us to be pointing fingers and complaining about where the church as gone wrong. It is the time for us to be looking at ourselves, figuring out which part of the body God has gifted us to be and start contributing while encouraging others to do the same. Make your time and place of worship your own and steward well what he has given you. When you do you’ll find the blessings you are looking for and be the blessing that some else needs.

Going on a treasure hunt

How many of you wanted to be a pirate when you were a kid? My brother’s sixth birthday party was a pirate-themed one. So naturally my parents had us looking for buried treasure.  As a group we found clues around the house and to my surprise my Father (who never allowed us to dig holes when we were bored outside) had buried what we were looking for in the backyard. As he was digging and I was in disbelief, the rest of the party hovered with my brother over the hole to discover a medium sized treasure chest with gold chocolate coins, little plastic party favors and a Bible on the inside. Upon opening it, my father explained that the greatest treasure we could ever own was the Truth of God’s word in our hearts. Everyone nodded their heads and immediately reached for the rest of the treasure to be divided up.

How many of us are simply nodding our heads, but not really seeing God’s word as the treasure that it is? Being three years older than my brother and his friends, I remember cherishing what my parents were trying to accomplish in that moment while also being distracted by all the things that surrounded that Bible. Sometimes I think that is still where I am in my Christian walk; knowing the wisdom behind it, but lacking the maturity to desire it alone. It doesn’t help either that convenience is so accessible when it comes to distractions. We can so easily look for the answers and council of others before we look to what God’s word has to say for our circumstances and we should use those resources once we turn to God’s word first. But, nothing is a better treasure than the visible and tangible thing of God that is the Bible.

Every day we have decisions to make about important things in our lives and all of us can be overwhelmed about which decision is best or even by the uncertainty of unknowns. Just remember that God’s word is like the compass as much as it is the treasure and that is why it is valuable. It reveals to us things about our heart as we read it. We have everything we need to do this life with Christ, but how we make our priorities does matter. Take time to let his words speak over you today and see how he comes through for everything else.

Luke 12:29-34
And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

A God who provides

“He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever— holy and awesome is his name.”

Psalm 111:9

For those of us who have committed to following Christ with our lives, we have at some point resolved to trust in his provision. Though we make the commitment in the moment and believe sincerely that God is able, we must ask ourselves in the waking of every day after if we still do. Do we trust in his provision? That he is sovereign over all and is able to do anything. Because at some point in this journey we will have trouble and the temptation will be to doubt.

This has been my struggle this week. Every day, I find myself getting lost in my worried thoughts and then I ask myself if I really believe God is going to come through. Then I remember all that he has done so far and brought me through and I’m reminded of his constant faithfulness. Though I struggle at first to believe it in my heart, I know with my mind he is able.  In my knowing who God is I choose to have faith and it’s only after being obedient with that choice that my heart to starts to believe it as well.

What about you? Are you trusting in his provision whatever you may need from him? Do you know him, and not just know of him, but really know him well enough to believe without a doubt he will provide? When it really comes down to it the question is not if can rely on God’s provision, but if he can rely on us to believe him for it. He so wants to lavish his love on us with good things; sometimes it is just a matter of believing him to do so. Take time today to surrender your needs to him and watch he comes through.  

Savor Moments

With all this wintry weather I cannot resist the temptation to dwell on my love for snow.  Having grown up out west the sight of snow feels more like home. It’s not so much that I like driving in it or the inconvenience that it can cause people at times, but I love the childhood memories and the invitation it gives me to stay inside and rest. Snow days are like a surprise gift God gives us just because. A day to be still or get caught up on things that need to be done at home. For some of us they are days to be with those we care about.  For all of us they are days to savor moments.

When I was in college I remember my friends would play in the snow on campus all the time. These are the moments I hope you are cherishing. Not to long from now you will be leaving for your summer destinations and some of you will be leaving for good.  Don’t take for granted the memories to be had. Savor them; all of them. Glean what you can from your professors. Be with the friends you cherish most at school. Give your best to finish strong and above all of this savor God in every minute of your day. If you haven’t made a snowball yet or sipped a cup of Joe with a friend, do so now and be a good steward with the moments you’ve been given this semester.

Psalm 39:4-7
New International Version

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure.
“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.
“But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.

Actively waiting

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.”
Lamentations 3:22-26
New International Version (NIV)

This passage of scripture would give me such great comfort until I would read that very last part. “It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” What does that mean? Why do I have to wait? It wasn’t until God had placed me in a season of much waiting that I understood just how impatient I can really be. It has also taken me many years of attempting to be patient and still before God to understand that waiting is not a passive thing to do. It is actually a very active action or choice. It’s not natural for us to typically be good at this and if we think about all it truly requires it makes us naturally feel restless.

Now I don’t think that is what God is wanting from us to feel, but I do think that waiting on him quietly to enter into our day and journey of salvation is the practiced discipline that makes our faith stronger and our thanksgiving great. It requires me to honestly seek Christ in everything I do from deep within my gut. When I am obedient in this choice, I see God’s fingerprints of faithfulness all over my past journey and I find the peace I need from this to be quiet and still. Just like that my heart is transformed and I am a better version of myself as then fill myself up with his words of truth and promises. It’s through this active choice and effort on my part that the work God desires to complete in me can take root. So this is my invitation to you today. Be actively waiting on the Lord in quiet intentional reflection and let him take care of the rest.