Vapor

psalm395

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.”

Surpasses All Understanding

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The peace of God – it is such a sweet feeling, to know that I am in God’s will and  sense His peace in and through me. His peace guides me and helps me be certain of Hiss will when doubts assail me.  In fact, I have found the peace of God to be like His still, quiet voice.

When I was graduating from high school and trying to decide what my next step would be, the Lord directed me with His peace. As I sought the Lord’s will, it was His peace that showed me what I should do next. While I didn’t feel peace about going to college, I felt peace about going to Gospel for Asia’s School of Discipleship and I knew that was where God wanted me for the next chapter of my life.

It was His peace made me confident in His will, even as I attended the School of Discipleship and the ministry faced many attacks, making the year not at all what I had expected. And you know what? In the end it was worth it, I have grown in many ways and have developed many close friendships through the year (including a closer relationship with God).

As I closed the School of Discipleship chapter and I sought His will for the next chapter of my life, it was then also that the peace of God guided me.  I asked Him to allow me to come on staff with Gospel for Asia, but He said no (for now) – I didn’t feel His peace in it. I told Him I didn’t want to go to college, but just get a job or work for a ministry, but every doorway I tried to walk through God closed.

So I decided I will try the college door, but as I walked through it I carried with me my own goals and ambitions and I found no peace. It was then that I realized I was going about things my own way and no longer allowing God to direct and guide me in this chapter of my life. Reluctantly I stepped back – “Lord, show me your will and guide me.”

“Look at this door,” God said to me, “You already closed it without giving it consideration.” I opened the door to Liberty University, and stepping in I didn’t feel the unrest I had felt with other options. “Look at this possible degree,” He said, “It will give you the flexibility you are looking for.” Feeling His peace, I chose that degree and kept walking. As I kept letting God lead me, instead of door after door closing as before, door after door opened wide waiting for me to walk through.

I continue walking this path as I plan to attend Liberty University in the fall and pursue a degree in Digital Media, and as I walk I realize this isn’t what I had planned for my life, but there is peace in it. Truly God’s peace does surpass all understanding, leading me step by step through this chapter of life.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)

Good Challenges

This coming Sunday, it will be exactly 2 months since I have come home from Texas. Many of you have asked (or maybe you just wondered) how my time with Gospel for Asia was.
Maybe I gave you a good answer and maybe I didn’t – I certainly can’t remember – but I know for me the question often had me struggling to put everything into a few words. So much happened in that one year, it was (and still is) hard to put it in a few words. I am IMG_20160425_235526still processing everything, but I think I can at least be better able to briefly say what I may or may not have been able to tell you earlier. 🙂 I thought I’ll at least give it a go:

How was my year at Gospel for Asia? My year was challenging, but it was also SOO good! If you had an hour I could share with you more about the challenges and struggles, but right now I’ll just say that it was those times that made the year good. You see, as I struggled, I was “forced” to seek out God – clinging to and growing closer to Him. I found that He alone is my rock, my fortress and deliverer.

My year at Gospel for Asia was also good because of the friendships I formed while there. Each one of us students had struggles and challenges we faced, but we didn’t go through them alone – instead we went together. We laughed together, we cried together, we learned together – constantly pointing each other closer to God. Most importantly, in the midst of everything, God was there teaching and growing me, making it a year I wouldn’t trade for a thing.

And THAT is my not-so-short short answer. 🙂

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