Sunday, January 18, 2015

Great Things

I want you to know that God put you on my heart today. I had a post I wanted to write, but I kept feeling tugged in this direction. 

Here is a question for you: What is following Jesus like for you?
Is being a Christian ritualistic? Is it comforting? Is it exciting?

God has been teaching me about how simply amazing life is when I live for Jesus. And I don't mean butterflies and rainbows amazing, but hard, spiritual-battle-filled, running to my Savior kind of amazing. It is not perfect. It is not always happy. But God is always good. 

I admit, sometimes I have a habit of sugar-coating my life— and by extension, sugar-coating God.  God's love for each of us is so great, but he also knows that the trials and struggles of life are often what is best for us. But, when trouble strikes, I tend to question God and his goodness. 

It was interesting this week— I was reading in the book of Job and then heard a sermon by Francis Chan on the same portion of Scripture. Growing up, I always found Job to be a really depressing book. Seriously, Job lost everything: his kids, his possessions, even his health. And after all that, his friends thought he was crazy. I avoided this book because it scared me. Just the concept that God would give Satan the power to take everything from one of God's children is terrifying. But the more and more I experience the pain of this world, the more I admire Job. When he had lost everything and even his body was falling apart, his wife told him to give up. "Curse God and die!" she said. Yet, Job does the opposite, and his reply stuck with me: "Will we accept good from God and not trouble?"

I think this is the greatest fault in the American version of Christianity. We are so used to our air-conditioned buildings, comfy seats, and repeat-after-me prayers, that we lump God into the same category. And just like we change churches or stop going all together if the speaker isn't engaging or the sermons aren't compelling, we stick with God as long as it benefits us. But when the storms of life come and the pain is overwhelming, we may blame God or even doubt his existence. 

Who do we think we are? 

This morning, my pastor preached on Exodus 15-17, when God tested the people of Israel in the wilderness. This was right after God had done the supernatural act of salvation we like to call the "Red Sea Crossing." God defeated their enemies and walked them through great danger unharmed. It was an amazing show of his power. Despite this, just a few months later, the Israelites started asking, "Is the Lord among us or not?" (Exodus 17:17)

So many times, we become just like the Israelites. When life is hard and the struggle seems unending, we, in our short-sighted minds, conveniently forget all that God has done in the past and grumble at him for not doing something in the present. God is working out his story in your life here and now, no matter if you can see it or not. He is doing great things in my life, even on the days when I pray to him through sobbing, because I didn't think it could get any worse, and it just did. 

Here is where the amazing part comes in. All of this pain, struggle, hurt, and fear, has drawn me closer to God than I have ever been before. When I got news that seemed to break my heart, I ran up to my room to cry in the arms of my Savior, and he gave me strength to carry on. I read back through my prayer journal, and seem Jesus moving even in those short entries. While I may be in deep sadness and anger at the beginning of a page, by the time I reach the next I am already feeling the comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit. 

I could say far more about all that God is doing, but I think I will leave it here. I do want to share with you a song that has impacted me greatly this last week. It is called Great Things by Elevation Worship, and it speaks of God working through the hard times of life. May you be encouraged. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

For the Name

This is a little poem I wrote about what God showed me during a rough time. I hope it is encouraging to those of you who may be in the midst of a struggle. 

For the Name

A car, a road
A girl alone in the night
It's been one of those days
When she's losing the fight

Satan is pushing,
Trying to make her fall
She's leaning on Jesus
But she just feels so small

One little tear 
Slips out of her eye
Then it all rushes down
As she cries to the sky,

"Jesus, I need you
Be here tonight
This struggle is so dark
That I can't see your light

I know I can trust you
But I've done all I can do

Give me strength to continue
When I'm falling apart
Lord, this girl loves you
Be near to my heart

I'm sorry to doubt you
I know it is wrong
But one days seems enough to bear
Five years is just so long

I know you have a plan 
For all this wandering
To bring us to a Promised Land
Where our hearts will sing

But waiting is so hard, God
My heart is torn to bits
I need to know you're here
I need a sign that I can't miss"

Then her heart was lifted 
As He whispered in her ear,
"Don't you remember, darling,
What you prayed last year?

Your heart was touched
As you read of ones across the sea
Who died, suffered, risked their lives
All because of me

That very day you said to Me
A simple step of faith
'I don't care what it may cost
I want to suffer for your name'"

As her own words were said to her
Her whole perspective shifted
Tears of joy ran down her face
And her spirit lifted

Instead of being angry
For this struggle she'd been through
She praised Lord God Almighty
That she could suffer with him too

Jesus Christ and twelve apostles 
Died for God the same
Now her heart rejoiced that she too
Was counted worthy to suffer for the Name

No longer will she fear
What the enemy might do
She serves the resurrected Lord
And is glad to suffer for Him too

So she shouted out in victory
As she approached the door
"Look out Satan! 
This girl serves the risen king and has joy forevermore."

"The Spirit bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
- Romans 8:16-17

" If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, it would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore, the world hates you. 
- John 15:18-19

"And when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name. 
- Acts 5:40-41

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But, take heart! I have overcome the world."
- John 16:33

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Choose Joy

Happy New Year Everyone!

Sorry for my unannounced blogging hiatus during December—I was able to enjoy some time off from school and work and spend a lot of time with my family. Nevertheless, I am glad to be back!

Thank you to everyone who is supporting and praying for me as I prepare to go to India in six weeks. I am so excited to see what God is going to do and I am amazed when I see how He has already provided. I can't get over how good God is.

As I enter 2015, I don't want to do so with philosophical ideals or major lists of goals. I have often discovered that God's goals for me in the future may look quite different from my goals for me. Knowing Him is the true adventure, as my pastor said on the eve of my graduation. This year, however, I want to focus on one thing. Everyday, no matter what happens, I want to wake up and say:

✟ ♥ ✞ ♥ ✟ "I choose joy....I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God." ✟ ♥ ✞ ♥ ✟

Choose Joy. That simple phrase can change so much in my perspective. Lately, I have been asking myself this question: What do people see when they look at me? Do they see the joy of Christ? Do they see a life that has been changed? Do they see someone living for more than the here and now?

My deepest desire is to show Jesus in everything I do. One way to do that is to show his joy. If I can depend on the Holy Spirit and demonstrate joy in the midst of struggle and pain, that is an example of a life changed by Christ.

I know it will not be easy, but when is God's call ever easy? My prayer is that through Jesus, I will live to be joyful in Him on a daily basis. May your New Year overflow with joy now and in the days to come.

Choosing Joy {and free printable}