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pray better

PrayBetterThis past week we began a Tuesday series on prayer.  Specifically, we’ll look at what it means to pray better.  I have admittedly been inspired by Louie Giglio’s talk series, “Prayer Re:Mix“, which has completely changed how I pray for the past few years.  My hope is that you feel challenged to examine and perhaps tweak your own prayer life along the way.

Our journey moves through 3 central prayer-related fallacies:

  1. “Bless me”
  2. “Be with me”
  3. “Protect me”

We started with “Bless Me” and the challenge here is to simply see the truth from Scripture – especially from Ephesians 1:3-14 – that God has and will bless us.  Paul says to the Church (and I paraphrase here), “you guys! Looks at what God has done in Christ for us.  He’s chosen us, adopted us, redeemed us, forgiven us, lavished wisdom upon us, given us an interitance, and sealed it all within us with the Holy Spirit!”

Have you marveled at the BLESSING of all blessings today?  Have thanked God for the work of Christ which purchases for us all that we could ever hope for?  It’s not just stuff either.  It’s a daily-and-eternal belovedness.  We are his! And nothing could ever change that!

These next two weeks we’ll examine the other ways we can trust God to be with us and use us for his glory.  I hope you’ll chat with Jessica or myself…or each other…about what you’re learning.

You ARE blessed.  Now go be a blessing for HIM.


your real life

On Tuesday, Justin talked about the truth behind emmaus’ slogan: real life in Jesus Christ. Throughout the week, my conversations seemed to reflect the meaning in some way or another. Everyone I got to talk to had a new, and fresh perspective on the meaning for themselves. But it left me thinking, what would removing “me” from the equation of my life mean?

To be left with only Jesus. His plan. His guidance. To fully trust Him. In the months leading up to my start with First Pres I grew a lot in the area of contentment. Meaning, I had to relearn to stop chasing the next step and be present in what is happening now. But, contentment doesn’t translate to apathy, laziness, or mediocrity. It does translate to rest. To chat over coffee with a friend, to take a day off, to hike, to get lost in the city, or to lay in bed and watch netflix. Above that, it means I can live life inside Christ—hidden & found in Him.

The feeling of being lost is something we, as humans, are all too familiar with. But to be truly found, and sought after brings immediate rest, relief, and peace.
Think about it, have you ever been lost as a child in a place crowed with people? That first sight of your parents running towards you frantically is soon filled with an overwhelming sense of comfort.
When I feel alone, I remember I am not, for He will never leave or forsake me.
When I feel misunderstood, I remember my heart was created by Him, for Him.
When stress creeps in, He is there saying “you are found.”
For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ

Colossians 3:3

 

-jessica


Our Purpose

If you’re anything like I was as a first year college student, you may catch yourself starting to think deeply, and in ways you’ve never thought of before. With that, you may start to wonder what the purpose is, what your purpose is. And soon, or maybe you have already started to wonder what would happen if you knew. Perhaps if I knew my purpose, I would have a better idea of how I should be spending my time, I would have a betting idea of what I should be studying, or what I should be involved in. It’s apparent that our purpose in life is something that is important to us. Our purpose is who we are – it’s our identity. That’s why we are all trying to find out; because when we do, we will know who we truly are. Once we think we find the reasoning, we can live our lives in full knowledge that we are doing what we were made to do.

In the Garden of Eden, God created us in His image, with a purpose. But how do we know? As I read and meditate on the scriptures I can’t find our purpose to be anything other than this: to be still. To be with God, and for God to be with us; for the Creator and His creation to live in harmony is perhaps the most fundamental purpose of life I can think of.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.
Romans 8:15

When we know that we are loved unconditionally by our Father, our Creator – when we are loved as His creation – then we can finally feel free to be still. To be who we are, unabashed and no longer needing to prove our worth to ourselves, and the world around us. Jesus came to restore us to the original purpose, not what we endlessly search for.

Today, know that you are God’s beloved child no matter what you do, or don’t do.
Know that you are free to simply be who you are as God restores your being, and brings you His grace.

 

-Jessica Steiner
Emmaus intern


Trust

10492273_10152100104941362_6854578531504867915_n[2]Do you remember what it was like learning how to ride a bicycle?  (…you have learned how, right!?)  Last weekend, we taught our 5 year old, Tessa, how to ride.  Tessa had gotten so used to training wheels that the mention of taking them off caused a deep panic.  So we did surgery…on her bike.  I removed the pedals, the crank, the chain… so that all that was left was a bike to coast on.  (Apparently they sell these things but I’m too cheap.)  The key is in teaching how to balance before learning how to pedal.  
 
We get so used to running before we crawl…writing conclusions before we research possibilities…speaking before we think.  We rely on instincts that haven’t been developed fully before we throw ourselves off proverbial bridges.  In matters of faith, this is akin to how we try to live out our faith before we actually learn how to trust God.  We rush through a morning prayer.  We flip to a random page in our Bible to “get a good Word”.  We will even walk out of a church service disappointed when we didn’t “feel a connection”.  But these aren’t the avenues to true spiritual life; they’re shortcuts to dead ends. 
 
Do you trust God?  Do you fear Him? 
Read the Psalms sometime and you feel this tension.  Look at Psalm 44.  The psalmist describes all faithful work of God, then declares “I do not trust in my bow; my sword does not bring me victory.” 
 
Perhaps your view of God is a small one.  Start by trusting the One who spoke and created art and landscapes.  Start my reflecting on what he done for you, for humanity…for his own namesake.  Start by reminding yourself that he is enough. 
 
Then…when you’re looking at your own training wheels coming off and the impending crash into a telephone pole, you’ll hear his whisper, “Do you trust me?”  And you’ll say, “YES!” 


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.”