Just a little faith (Mandy’s last post)

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

Last night I was given a mustard seed to tape in my journal. Its purpose is to be the visual of how much faith we need to move mountains. It’s actually a comfort to see just how a little bit of faith can make a difference, but what if we don’t have even that? Sometimes we want to, but we just don’t even have the faith that small in size. What is it that keeps us from seeing the outcome of our faith moving the certain mountains we may face?

I think often what keeps us from seeing this in our lives at times is our resolve and the desire to act upon it. In my own experience the thing that has kept me from seeing mountains move is my faithlessness to God. It’s not a question of believing in him, but rather that I do not act upon it. There comes a time when we must be resolved to believe God is capable of doing all says he can do. We have to stop asking if we can trust God and start asking can God trust us. By this I mean are we trustworthy of the purposes he has prepared for us to live out.  Once we take on this resolve and desire to humbly live that trustworthy life while saying no to fear, we are able to find it within ourselves to be faithful to the one who has been faithful to us. The bottom line, however, is remembering that faith is always a choice.

It tears me up to think of saying good bye to you all. Moving to Winston-Salem was in its self a faith journey for me and each of you has been the blessing I have received in the result. As I prepare to drive away into a new chapter of unknowns, I will take comfort in knowing that God will bless what little faith I can act upon to offer him. He has made it clear the entire time I have been here that He’s got me in the shadow of his wing and that is not going to change. Wherever you may go from this semester and into the years to come that is where he’s got you too!

My prayer for you all is that you will always be resolved to be faithful to God. May you always approach what is uncomfortable and boldly live a life found in the freedom of God and his amazing grace. May His peace be continuously with you and may you always know how much you are dearly loved.  

-Mandy 


Perfect love

For those who read last week about fear I thought it was only fitting to touch on the topic of love this week. After all, if you have seen the movie Frozen, fear will be our enemy if we don’t claim the promises of God’s perfect love over us. 1 John 4:18 says,
 
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
 
This love that John speaks of is greater than romantic love, it is perfect, Godly love. Perfect love is the love Christ showed us in dying on the cross and calls us to give to others. It is more powerful than we can really know or imagine and gives us the strength that many of us long for in perusing a courageous life. The only catch is that we only get it from deep relationship with God. When we call on him to love beyond ourselves, we experience freedom that comes from this act of obedience; this is perfect love.

I have wasted a lot of time in my own life being afraid. I worry about everything and I can personally attest to the reality that it waists your life away and closes up your heart. By the grace of God I can also tell you that his love is relentless and perfect. When he called me out to Winston he asked me to love selflessly and to open up my heart again. Though I have known some hurt and have had some massive fails, my heart has been awakened in the practice of loving others as Christ has asked me to. It is not my own, it comes from him and it feels amazing! I am thankful for this awakening to my heart and invite you to seek the same kind of love today. When fears hover over us we need only ask how we can conquer them with this perfect love of God. Sometimes it means we need to ask how we can better love ourselves and it usually requires us to love outside of what is comfortable. But, it is so worth it.

I hope it encourages you all today to know that I do sincerely love you with the love that comes from the Father above. May you be empowered today to boldly live your life with the perfect love that God lavishes upon you and that you’ll know the freedom that comes with it.


When fears are stilled

Have you been to the movies lately? My guess is that most of you have. There are a lot of good films out right now and it would be a shame to miss them on the big screen. So far within the New Year I have seen a wide variety of flicks from Frozen to Captain America and even God’s Not Dead (of which I recommend to students).  All of them have been good, but as I was reflecting on the sum of them I realized that they all encompassed prominent themes of fear.

So naturally I start to wonder the logic that Hollywood uses to determine a “best seller” for an audience that is largely made up of our generation because we aren’t parents and will pay to see the movies twice. Or perhaps they look at our larger national or cultural trends and choices.  Perhaps they aren’t saying that we’re a fearful society, but I do think we are a generation who needs to understand what we fear and more importantly what to do with it.

Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting in on a live Google chat with other college ministry directors across the nation.One of them was conveying a common struggle among his students was a constant fear of failure that was keeping them from reaching their full potential. Whether or not this is true nationwide, I think everyone has something they are afraid of. It is not much a question of if we fear, but when.
Fear in its self is not a bad thing, but when it works hand in hand with lies it will cripple us every time. This leads to my next point, that we have an enemy looking to bring us down. If Satan is mindful of are fears and how to use them, don’t you think you should as well?  We will not be doing ourselves any favors either when we think we can handle them on our own and belittle them from what they really are, because when it comes down to it we are not meant to do this life alone.
I don’t know why, but I feel that God wants you all to know that whatever it is He’s got it. You have no need to fear. He has so many wonderful gifts in this life just waiting for you, but you must be brave and make him first. Let’s not be a fearful generation because we aren’t recognizing them, don’t know how to deal with it or worse are just too lazy. Let’s be the generation that leans into a loving God, boldly claiming every promise he has given us and live into everything He has for us to become.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9


“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalms 23:4

 


Selfie

As I was leaving lunch with some students today, I asked them what they thought I should write about for the Thursday thought. The topics they randomly answered with where photography and “selfies.”

 I don’t think they thought I would take the challenge of writing about selfies, but I actually think it’s a worthy topic for further thought. Don’t worry I don’t think people should be condemned for taking them, but I am slightly concerned for the deeper issue I think our rising generation is coming up against.

 I doubt any of you could deny that our culture is all about self. The next best thing to be had these days is more convenient for us or makes us look good. We are constantly fed messages that it is all about “me.”I don’t think selfies are the problem, but rather a culture that provides endless amounts of social media for us to fill our time with, even though we may be sitting in a room full of people. Is the amount of time we invest in promoting ourselves outweighed by what we invest in others? Let’s just be mindful of how much time we spend with the things that just don’t really matter, when the better version of ourselves can be seen when we’re more present with those we are already with.

What do you think? Is there a point when it can get obsessive? Perhaps you agree? Perhaps you don’t?

1 Thessalonians 4:9
“Now about Your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.”


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.