Lass uns Wandern

Lass uns wandern – “Let’s wander.” This phrase really speaks to my adventurous, independent spirit. The thought of traveling and experiencing all that different places and cultures hold has great appeal to me.

Now knowing all this, would you be surprised if I said I’ve never been out of the United States? Much to my own disappointment this is true. I may have a passport, but I have never used it.

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This past spring I decided it was time to change that. I didn’t want to simply take a vacation somewhere though. Instead I wanted the opportunity to experience a new culture while gaining valuable life experience and education. As I was exploring my options, I came across the organization American Institute of Foreign Study (AIFS). Immediately their one program caught my eye: a semester abroad in Germany! Seeing this program brought back memories of going through my Dad’s pictures from when he visited Germany and thinking, “Someday I want to visit Germany!” Now that forgotten dream had an opportunity to be fulfilled. Not only would I finally be able to use my passport, but I would also be able to experience a new culture from both an educational perspective and day-to-day living.

So finally after a long application process and a lot of praying for a partial scholarship that I did receive, I am excited to say that I will be going to Germany next year! From February-May 2018, I will be studying at Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany. I’m excited for the opportunity to learn from the perspective of a different culture. Plus, I will have the opportunity to visit other European cities and learn about their history and culture!

As a Human Services major looking toward a degree that very much involves working with people from various cultures, it is important to me to be able to better understand various cultures and their views. What better way to do so than by visiting other cultures?

So now that you have read this long-winded update on my life, may I ask you a question? Would you consider partnering with me while I am studying in Germany? This could be financially or prayerfully. While, yes, I have received a scholarship I still have some expenses that need covering. You can checkout more details here. As for praying for me, please pray that I am bold in my faith. While this isn’t a missions trip, I do hope to have opportunities to share my faith with those I come in contact with. Pray also for me as I adjust to life in Germany and all that comes with being in a new place and culture.

I look forward to sharing my journey with you all in the next several months!

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What God’s Love Is

Today I went through some of my old journals and found myself having to pause and ponder this one thought I penned in 2015:

1 John 4:8 says, “God is love.” What does it mean for God to be love? What is love? 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 gives us a definition:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

If this is what love is then God is all of these things as well and you can read 1 Corinthians 13 this way:

God suffers long and is kind; God does not envy; God does not parade Himself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek His own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God never fails.

In Jeremiah 31:3, God says, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love.” So I may risk sounding repetitious here, but if God is love and He loves us, the following is also true:

God suffers long and is kind to me; God does not envy; God does not parade Himself before me, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely toward me, does not seek His own but what is best for me, is not provoked, thinks no evil of medoes not rejoice in my iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things for me, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things for meGod never fails me.

Pause. Grasp this. Understand it in your heart. Cry over it. Accept the love God has for you.

Vapor

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Who would you be at your best? Who would I be at my best? For me I dream of me at my best as a point in the future. Maybe once I have the chance to travel Europe, the United States, or even the world. Or the point that I am settled down with a husband and young children. The first, I picture myself at my best in adventure. The second, I picture myself at my contented best.

As I think of Psalm 39 though, I realize that neither of these dreams are certainties and if they were, how long will they last? According to verse five, they wouldn’t last long. Like vapor it will pass away and then what will I have? Memories? They’re a beautiful thing, but one can not live in them. What will be left?

1 Corinthians 3:13-15 says,

“Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

In the end, of all that I am, of me at my best, how much of it will burn? How much of it will remain?

I should not simply live to reach what I see as me at my best. Instead I should live to make every moment count, building with material that will last. I still desire to travel. I still desire to have a family someday. But I also desire to make every moment a moment that brings glory to God. It is then that I will truly be at my best, a best that will not pass away like vapor.

What about you? What is your “best”? Will it last?

Where He Wants Me

 

If any of you have talked to me recently I may have shared how I have been feeling restless with where I am in life, questioning why I am at Liberty University and if the path I am on is the right one. Recently God has been pressing on me some thoughts that are really changing my perspective.

First, I’ve come to realize that maybe the restlessness I’m feeling is not because I’ve made a wrong turn somewhere, but because I’ve made the right turn and Satan doesn’t want me taking this direction. The other Sunday the pastor said that fate (just going through life, letting what happens happen) is easy, but destiny (following God’s will) is hard because there will be opposition. God has a purpose for me  in the here and now, not just sometime down the road. I have been too restless, trying to find a way out, not allowing Him to work in and through me to fulfill His good purpose (Phil 2:13).

Another thought God has pressed on me is in answer to the many times I ask, “Where is God leading me? What is His plan for me?” I’m a person who likes to have at least a general plan for the next several years of my life (you know, maybe what I will be doing after I graduate. And yeah, I’m already thinking about that), but too often I allow thoughts and worries about the future distract me from the present.

Recently, though,I’ve been thinking about the times others have shared how they never expected to be where they are now and may have, in the past, scoffed at the idea. Now they can see how God shaped their desires to match His and are confident they’re where God wants them. Maybe I’ll have a story like them. Maybe if I knew now what God has planned for me I’d scoff or try to get away. Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t know. 🙂  I need to simply trust God, like He’s asking me to, and know that He’ll prepare me for whatever is in store.

“Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him . . . “

– Psalm 37:7

 

Ponderings from Others

Maybe you remember some of my posts in the past that have been a compilation of various quotes I have gathered, whether it was through a book I read, a sermon I heard, or a conversation I had. I’d like to share more quotes that I have gathered in the past couple months, most of them coming from Liberty University’s Convocation (a gathering of the student body three times a week for worship and to hear from a speaker). I encourage you to think about what is being said as you read through these quotes and hopefully they impact you as much as they did me.

  • “We know that while we are flawed in a unique way, we are not unique because we are flawed. Therefore we can be authentic.” -the Candor Manifesto in Divergent
  • “Forever is not about the quantity of time but the quality of time.” – Clayton King
  • “What you hold in your hands that you think will satisfy you – that is the very thing you got to let go.” -Clayton King
  • “My dream is to be a lawyer, so I can have the rights of a human.” – Vivyn, an Iraqi refugee
  • “If you turn down idea one, you turn down idea ten.” – Jeremy Cowart
  • “People want real. So get out there and be real to this world, guys.” Brian Head Welch
  • “Jesus didn’t die to keep us safe. Jesus died to make us dangerous.” – quoted by Dr. David Jeremiah
  • “Are you anchored or are you drifting? Drifting just happens without much thought, but being anchored takes choice after choice.” – Pastor Brandon
  • “Your finances does not determine God’s plan for your life.” – Benny Prasad
  • “The only place of true neutrality is silence.” – “What is Moral Relativism?”
  • “While you were still a sinner, Christ died for you. He didn’t wait for you to get your life cleaned up.” – First Baptist Church of Orlando pastor
  • “Fellowship is reciprocal – one must give himself to be fed upon if he is to maintain the right to feed on others.” – from the Journals of Jim Elliot
  • “Not being thankful leads to arrogant, blind foolishness.” – Pastor Mark
  • “Why do we struggle so much to live for Him when so many of our sisters and brothers are willing to die for Him.” – Johnnie Moore

 

The Prodigal Returns

In devotions the other day I was reading Jeremiah 31. This chapter is a prophecy full of joy and reconciliation. Because of their rebellion, God punished Israel, scattering them throughout the world. Many of the Israelites thought God had rejected them, but God hadn’t rejected Israel – no, He was simply waiting for them to return to Him.

As I read this chapter I was reminded of the parable of the prodigal son. In that parable, you see the son determined to go his own way and do his own thing and even take money from his Father. Although, what he was doing was wrong, the Father allowed him the free will to do it. The son left home and did life his way, throwing out all that he had received from his father. In the process of this, he became poor, broke, and rejected by all. That is, all but his father.joyful_kid

His father was at home the whole time waiting for him, ready to love him, forgive him, and accept him again. Finally, the son came home. His Father was so overjoye
d, they had a celebration! Imagine the relief and joy the son must have felt – he had been forgiven, no more was he alone but now reconciled to his Father!

This same picture is shown in Jeremiah 31. As you read this passage you feel both the relief Israel felt to be reconciled back to God and the joy of God to be with His people again. Examples of this are found in Jeremiah 31:13, 18,20, 34-35.

Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy;
    I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. . . .

“I have heard Ephraim grieving,
‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined,
    like an untrained calf;
bring me back that I may be restored,
    for you are the Lord my God. . . .’

Is not Ephraim my dear son?
    Is he my darling child?
For as often as I speak against him,
    I do remember him still.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
    I will surely have mercy on him,”
declares the Lord. . . .

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people. . . .

For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.”

What about you and me as Christians? God has reconciled us to Himself and these words that are spoken to Israel are as true for us. God has forgiven our wickedness and our sins are remembered no more! We don’t have to live with the pain of guilt, but as the prodigal who has returned, instead you and I can feel the release of the burden of our sin and guilt and live in joy.

Seek First

As time goes by, things change, and life goes on various worries and fears manifest themselves. Moving down to Lynchburg, VA last month was one of those changes in life for me that brought forth some worries. Worries like, “Will I be able to financially support myself while in school?” Or “Will I have the time or opportunity to make new friendships since I’m a commuter?” Or even, “Is what I am doing really the right thing to do and what God wants of me?”

It was in this time that God drove home what Matthew 6:33 means. This verse says:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

Before I go any further I want to explain the context. Sometimes people take this verse out of context to mean that if you serve God well enough He will provide you with blessings of wealth. That wasn’t what Jesus was talking about when He spoke these words. Instead, He had just finished telling His disciples they should not worry about tomorrow and other problems in life, but they should instead trust God who will provide for them.

It is here that we read Matthew 6:33 where Jesus tells the disciples (and us) to “seek first the kingdom of God and and His righteousness…” The key words here are seek first. We are to seek God first, putting Him above all else, letting Him be the center of our life around which all else orbits. We are to seek first His kingdom, proclaiming the Gospel through our words and actions, living our lives totally for Him and pointing others to Him.We are also to seek first His righteousness, living a life that reflects Christ and doing so through the power of the Holy Spiritseek first.jpg

It is when we do this that all else is added to you. So what are your worries? Are you worried about good grades? Or maybe its paying a bill? Or getting a job? Or, like me, forming new friendships or actually doing God’s will? You don’t need to worry about them. If you are seeking God first and foremost in your life, all those things will be added to you as well – God will provide! This is what God has been showing me lately. Although I time and time again lose faith in this verse, God time and time again has remained faithful in providing for me , assuring me, and encouraging me in many ways. He will take care of your worries and fears to – just seek first His kingdom and righteousness.

Joys of the Summer

“If you are choosing to believe in Jesus to save you from your sins for the first time today, will you please show me by raising your hand?”

One . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . four little hands raised! I then ask them to come to a back table with me so we can talk more about the decision they were making. As I then talked with them, I realized some didn’t understand why they actually raised their hand, while some had previously decided to believe in Jesus but were struggling in their walk with him, yet some of them were sincere in choosing to believe in Jesus for the first time.

It is moments like these that bring me so much joy throughout the summer! Whether I have the chance to re-explain the Gospel to them or I rejoice with and encourage them in their decision to follow Christ or I am able to give them direction as they grow in their walk with Him – no matter which it is I thank God for the opportunity I have to work with these children and see the Lord working in their hearts!

Throughout this summer I have had the privilege to work with Child Evangelism Fellowship to reach children in my county with the Gospel. I’d like to share with you several stories and experiences I had this summer, experiences that will stay with me for years and are a reminder to me of how the Lord works in the life of even a child:


I was helping out at one of CEF’s Good News Day Camps, playing a review game on the Bible lesson they had that day with the 1st/2nd grade boys. One of the questions I asked the boys was: “How can you be saved?” One of the boys tried answering but I could tell he didn’t really understand the question or what it means to be saved. “What a great opportunity to share the Gospel with him!” I thought. So I did – explaining that being saved means believing in Jesus to forgive you of your sins and the essence of the Gospel, our sin and need for a Savior and how Jesus was that Savior. I could tell the young boy was trying to listen and understand what I was saying, but the other boys were causing a distraction.

Later that day, I took him aside and explained it to him again. “Do you want to believe in Jesus to save you from your sins?” I asked him. With understanding in his eyes, he said that yes, yes, he did! We bowed our heads to pray, but after a few moments of silence he looked up to me, “I’m nervous.” He understood the decision he was making and didn’t want to make it lightly or do it “wrong,” so I guided him in his prayer. When we were done praying I could see a joy in his eyes, a peace – he was now God’s child.


Another week, at one of CEF’s 5-Day Clubs I was teaching the children the story of the prodigal son. I had one of the boys up front with me playing the role of the prodigal son. As I explained to the children how the prodigal son asked for his inheritance before the proper time and ran away (he sinned), the young boy interjected, “But I didn’t actually do that, I’m just acting!”


At another club, I had the joy of leading a young girl to Christ. I asked her if she had a Bible she could read to help her grow to know God better. She said no. The next day I brought her a Bible. As I showed it to her and explained how she could find verses and books of the Bible, she was near tears and kept exclaiming, “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! I never had my own Bible before! Thank you! Thank you!”


At that same club, it wasn’t unusual to have some of the children to come to me and ask me to pray for them or someone they knew. Sometimes they would come to me: “I believe in Jesus and asked Him to forgive me, but I keep on fighting with my friends and I want to stop,” giving me the opportunity to explain how the Holy Spirit can help them do what it right if they ask Him!


These are just a few of the opportunities that God gave me this summer to share with the children and guide them in their walk with Christ, but they’re moments that I’ll hold dear as a reminder of how God is at work, even today. I hope they were an encouragement to you too.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14

Grace and Mercy, Mercy and Grace

I’d be nothing without Jesus, yet so often I consider myself quite something. I don’t deserve Jesus dying on the cross for me, yet so often I take it for granted boasting in my own goodness. It’s not my goodness though, but Jesus’s and His alone! I am nothing. I am sinful. I do not deserve this gift given to me. BUT thank God for His grace and mercy, for He is everything and without Him life would be vain.

As I think about this I realize how much rests on God’s grace and mercy. Then I have to ask myself like most Christians often ask, “What is grace? What is mercy?”

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The common Biblical definition of mercy is to not receive what one deserves. I deserve to be punished for my sin. I deserve to be separated from God forever. I deserve death. I deserve hell’s fire. BUT, because of God’s mercy, through Christ, I don’t receive these things.

The common Biblical definition for grace is to receive what you don’t deserve. In this case, this includes forgiveness, a forever relationship with God, the Holy Spirit, and a home in heaven. I don’t deserve these things but because of God’s grace, through Christ I do receive them.

Grace and Mercy go hand-in-hand, you simply cannot have one without the other. It was because of God’s mercy that Jesus died on the cross; therefore taking the punishment for our sins. Now by believing in Him I don’t receive the punishment I deserve because Jesus has received it – God’s mercy. It was then because of God’s grace that Jesus rose again. Since Jesus is alive I can have life in Him and a relationship with God through Him, something I don’t deserve.

As I said earlier, mercy and grace go hand-in-hand. It’s an all or nothing. We focus so much on God’s grace and how we need to accept it and live in it (and that’s right), but we need to remember that it is because of God’s mercy that it is possible for us to even receive His grace. Without His mercy there would be no grace and we’ll be back to square one – a life that’s meaningless.

Next think of God’s mercy without His grace. Say Jesus would have died and taken the punishment for our sin but He didn’t rise again. There would be no hope and no assurance of our forgiveness, our acceptance in Christ, or of God’s love for us – we’ll be lacking the definiteness of God’s grace. Life would again be vain, because how could we find joy in our forgiveness? Where would be the assurance of a loving relationship with God through grace?

Think of the greatness of God’s love for us, the greatness of His grace and mercy! We who are nothing become something through Jesus, but our “somethingness” is nothing we can attribute to our own account but only to God and His mercy and grace.

A Dry Place

What does one do when you feel like you have come to a desert? I can remember the sweetness of open communion with the Lord. Digging into His Word and delighting in what He had to say. Of feeling the freedom to share anything with Him and the joy of interceding on other’s behalf.

But where has it gone? Why is it now hard to simply stay awake or focused when I want to spend time with Him? Why does there seem to be a wall up between me and Him holding me back from openly communing with Him? When will I leave this desert?  I desire to spend time with God but my will is severely lacking.

This post isn’t about the answer I found but the answer I am still looking for. The only answer I can give myself right now is: persevere and don’t give up for every desert had an ending.

Sometimes I find myself at a small oasis in the desert and there I find the encouragement and strength to keep pressing on. Even now I am reminded of Philippines 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Also Philippines 4:13 – “I can do all the things that have through Christ who gives me strength.” Lastly I am reminded of Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”