Why?

14 Mar

Life is full of questions. From the mundane to the kind that leave our heads aching, we are always asking questions. “What’s for dinner?” “Did I turn off the coffee pot before I left?” “What is God up to in my world?”

We all have questions which means we all want answers. And the biggest question we ask? Why. Why am I going through this? Why didn’t they keep their promise? Why did she say that? Why isn’t my prayer being answered? Why? Why? Why? It’s never ending. It’s a horrifying ride we buy ourselves the ticket to. Yes, unfortunately we create some of the misery. It’s in our human nature, our finite minds, that we cannot see beyond our circumstances let alone ourselves most days. I don’t believe it’s wrong to ask why. Our God is infinite in wisdom and grace to allow us to ask and who better to ask! Where I think we get trapped is sitting in the stalemate of waiting for the answers to come that were never promised. And if we’re honest, (just between the two of us) even if our questions were answered, we still wouldn’t be happy with it and ask about His return policy. The Lord doesn’t give us all the answers to the whys, but what He does is give us the Who. The Who that sees beyond the circumstance, decision, sin, hurt, pain, sickness, and isn’t surprised by any outcome of it. He gives us the chance in those moments of questioning to scoot in a little bit closer to Him. Because the closer we get to Him, the more we hear His heart and the more it drowns out the noise of the broken world we live in. It’s there that we begin to see the answer to our whys are fully taken care of in the Who. The answers to our questions fade when we know His character and His heart for us. That He loves us fully and unconditionally. He longs to bring us good and not harm, to offer peace that goes beyond any understanding, to bind up our wounds even when the process can sting. The sovereignty of God is something we will never fully understand on this side of eternity and I’m not sure we are supposed to. We are simply called to lay down our unbelief and surrender it in full confidence with every ounce of faith that He has our best interest at heart…always! His love already proved that long ago on a cross. The Who far exceeds any knowledge of the why because there’s comfort in the Who. There’s rest and peace and joy. The Who satisfies beyond an answer to any other question, even when we just don’t understand life. So excuse me while I scoot myself a little closer to the throne. 

Lightbulb Moments

16 Nov

Sometimes I don’t know why I write here…I haven’t in a long time. Some days I let spill out what’s already leaking out of my heart. I never know where it’s going to end up, it may just be for me. But my heart is so full today!

I sat with a pastor friend of mine and his wife at dinner last night and I listened to story after story of former students of theirs marrying pastors, becoming pastors, missionaries, teachers, discipling people and so much more. It wasn’t just people from one church or one state, but these students now covered multiple states in the U.S. and missionaries who are all over the globe! As the night ended I looked at them and said, “Isn’t it incredible to know you have made such an impact on so many people around the world?” They just looked at me and smiled.

Their hearts for the Lord are contagious and their love for people is sometimes sickening (in a good way). It’s one thing to be in ministry and see the fruits of your labor but it’s another thing to continue on even when you don’t. It was in their faithfulness that this amazing couple served and gave and poured out, knowing they were fully committed to the calling on their life even though I’m sure they never imagined they’d have so many stories to recount with me last night. Being one of those many people whose life has been impacted by them, I came home so overwhelmed with love and a renewed love for student ministry work and a stronger desire to keep at it.

Having studied 1 & 2 Thessalonians the last couple of months, in the midst of the discouragement of ministry, I have hung onto Paul’s words in the second chapter of his first letter. “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” I’m not sure I knew what it meant when I initially read it, but I knew it held significance. Paul’s ministry was people focused, people oriented and seeing their lives changed brought him so much joy he couldn’t contain it when something clicked with them. They were so loved by him, his heart swelled up so much for them that he said, “For you are our glory and joy!” It’s as if he couldn’t help but sit at the feet of Jesus and say. “Lord, look! Look at them! Have you seen what they’re learning?! Do you see how the lightbulb has gone on? How they get it?! Isn’t it exciting?!”

So this morning I get a text from one of the sweetest girls I’ve ever known. A girl who probably unfortunately for her was the first girl God ever called me to disciple. Once a week we met for coffee or at her home to discuss the drama that seems to be never-ending in middle school life. We’d talk through school, family, relationships, sports, the junk of life and how God could use it all to teach us something and bring glory to Himself. It is by far one of my favorite times in ministry! The light bulb flickered on a lot! But the Lord had other plans for her and her precious family away in Louisiana. As much as I think about her and pray for her, we haven’t stayed in touch as much as I’m sure either of us would have hoped…but this morning I got a text.

“I leave for Bangladesh in 3 weeks. The Lord called me loud and clear several years ago to foreign missions and I could not be more excited about the places that he has led me and continues to lead me.”

Then the lightbulb went on for me.

An overwhelming joy filled my heart beyond measure. And I felt like Paul must have felt for the Thessalonians. I began welling up with excitement and telling God, “Have you seen what she’s learned?! Isn’t it so exciting?! She gets it and she doesn’t want to contain it!”

Maybe you walk through your day to day life and wonder what your ministry could even be. Or maybe you know exactly what it is and feel like you’re not fulfilling your calling. May you never tire of doing good! (2 Thessalonians 3:13) Keep at it knowing Christ is using you even if you do not see the fruit today or even on this side of eternity.

By far the greatest joy and the thing I will be most excited to boast about before the Lord Jesus when I see Him are those lightbulb moments with students. To get to look at Him one day and say, “Thank you for those students! Look at them! Have you seen how they have glorified you?! Thank you for letting me be a part of their lives!”

 

“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

(2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

2014:NOW

1 Jan

Where does time go? And why so quickly? Have you ever stopped to enjoy life? Good or bad, every moment brings a lesson to our lives. Even the mundane and routine moments. I’m finding that the more I blink the more moments fly by. I wanna live in the moment. And not in some, take a million risks sort of way, but I want to be present in them. To savor the time I do have here with people I love and am learning to love. The type of presence that allows me to recall aromas, hear laughter echo, and to vividly remember the smallest detail of someone’s smile even long after the moment is over. 2014 is here and I wondered over and over tonight why I am so sad for 2013 to be over and done with, now beginning to collect dust on a bookshelf in my mind. It’s not because 2013 was the greatest year of my life, it definitely was not. It wasn’t the worst either. But I think it’s because the memories, they’ve gotten more faint and the details hazy because I forget to pay attention to where I am and who I’m there with.

Today did you make memories? Were you fully present so not a detail slipped by when you joke about tonight next year or was there something else grasping for your attention? Was it something meaningless on your phone? A worry? A regret? A what if? I think Satan loves to distract. He loves to take our focus off what’s important and redirect it to meaningless and insignificant things. Our minds race a million miles an hour worrying about the year ahead or the one behind us when all the while we could be defeating those worries by really living even now. I don’t want to miss moments. I don’t want to miss making beautifully painted memories with the people I love! And I certainly don’t want to take those chances for memory making for granted! I don’t wanna be distracted any longer. No more missing out on opportunities to love or spend grace. What’s in store for now is more important than the then, because it’s the now that got us here and the now that will get us there.

Contentment

31 Dec

I’ve noticed something about teenage girls and young women on social media, they’re obsessed with talking about wanting someone to call their own. Now, while I wholeheartedly believe that God places the desire in our hearts to want a future spouse, I also believe that He doesn’t promise that for our lives. Over and over young women have used social media as a platform for desperation. We all know your crush follows you. We all know if you get him to catch your status or tweet and like it or retweet it, it makes your heart leap with joy. Even if you coat it in scripture or holiness, you still sound desperate. And if I’m honest, it makes you sound like our reward for obedience and seeking after God is a spouse. It isn’t.

Let’s get a couple things straight:
1.) God never promised we’d get to be married.
2.) God never said there was “the one” out there for you.
3.) If you were half as desperate for God as you are for a boyfriend or husband, your entire world and outlook on it would change.

Again, I am not saying it is wrong to want a significant other in your life. What woman doesn’t long for that? God has designed us for relationships. People need people and I don’t think He ever intended for us to have to do life alone. But the problem is when our desire for someone has become a greater distraction for desiring our Creator, the Author of love Himself.
Do you realize the abundant life God promised us in John 10:10 may not include a husband? It might not include that dream job or getting into that school. What He has in store for us is something much more than we can possibly fathom or understand. And what if all Jesus meant by abundant life was simply life in Him? Would be satisfied with that? Only Him?

Marriage paints an incredible picture of Christ’s love for us. A love that sees beyond self and endures through obstacles. A love that pursues no matter the cost. And it is ok to desire that! But that Love, needs to be your first love. Will you seek after Him? It’s time to find contentment in your singleness.

The Body

5 Nov

Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.”

I’ve spent a good part of the morning praying this verse over a group of women I get the privilege of leading in worship this weekend. It’s a verse I want my life to be characterized by. A verse and chapter that’s beaten me up on numerous occasions as well. But this morning I got curious…what does it mean by “bodies?” The original Greek word, I discovered, is ‘sóma,’ which is used for the physical body, but is also used figuratively of The Body of Christ-The Church.

Oh what a whole new meaning that brings to this passage! One commentary I read explained the sacrifice being described in this passage as this, “to be as wholly the Lord’s property as the whole burnt offering was. (The atonement for sin) No part being devoted to any other use.” Now what if we applied that to The Church? Not the building you meet in, or the denomination you claim to be a part of, but the Body of Christ as a whole.

“NO part being devoted to any other use.” Simply His…ALL His. For His purpose. The moment I devote my time to things that don’t matter, give money to causes that misuse the money God has entrusted to me, and refuse to love people and have real relationships with them, because I’d rather not do what His Word commands, I am no longer living my life as a sacrifice. And therefore I am not worshipping Him the way He desires. And if we look at this passage with The Church in mind, how many parts are being devoted to other, frivolous uses? Are we feeding the poor? Are we clothing the needy? Or are we still pushing for that bigger building? Are we still missing out on real, authentic relationships with others who need to see Jesus in us because we are so afraid of “this day and age?” Just because times have changed, doesn’t mean the truth of the Gospel or Jesus Himself have. And neither has the fact that people need Christ and we need each other. Our lives, The Body of Christ must be devoted to no other use, but His. And I wonder how many times we CHOOSE other things over Him. Other things that aren’t pleasing to Him. We get wrapped up in the number of seats being filled as opposed to the number of lives being changed. Wrapped up in reputations that build our egos, all the while tearing down a dying world outside and members of the family inside.

I hope and pray that my body, who I am and hope to be, is a living sacrifice. Dying to myself daily to be used for His purpose, His glory, no matter the cost or what others say…including those in “the family.” If it began with us individually, I can’t help but think The Church as a whole would transform and become all He intended it to be: Devoted to His use, His name, and nothing else.

Be The Church,
Amanda

Can I Rant?

7 Apr

It’s 2:30 in the morning so I’m writing because my heart feels incredibly heavy and if I’m honest, a little wounded. No one will probably read this, but if you are, welcome to a thought process. You may never arrive at any destination or conclusion. And you may have just joined a can of worms that’s been open in my mind for quite some time.

Love is a four letter word that I can’t begin to explain, fathom, or live out in the way that it deserves. It’s the most abused word in the English language, and at the same time one of the most powerful words. I’ve found myself over the past year or so wanting to be characterized by this word. In the things I say, the motive behind things I do, and the reason why I breathe. Love is equivalent to life because for me, love is not based on a feeling. Love is not something that describes a romantic encounter, but love is my God. (1 John 4:8) Therefore love for me equals life. Without Love, there’d be no reason for Christ to endure the most gruesome of deaths. Without Love, He would see no need to save a despicable sinner like me. And without Love, I would have no reason to live. But because of Love, a sacrifice was made on my behalf that conquered death and the grave to give me life and purpose.

Call me crazy, call me young, naïve, it wouldn’t be something I haven’t heard in the last year, but there’s an aching in my heart, in the very depths of my soul to be more like Jesus in this breath than my last. To be a part of a unified body of Christ, The Church, the way He intended it to be. To know Love and be love…to every single person I encounter, whether they show love or not. When my life is over and if people gather somewhere to talk about me, I don’t want to be known for the career I had or the places I lived. There’s nothing I want more than to be known and characterized by love: Love for my Savior which resulted in an overflow of love for people. I want to be known by extraordinary love, because that’s who my God is. Everything I do should be an overflow of love because things such as: grace, forgiveness, mercy, encouragement, patience, kindness are all extensions of love.

I honestly believe loving people is the most difficult thing I will ever do. I’m no expert at it by any means and there are days I know I don’t love the way I’m supposed to or should, even days when I’m ashamed of the lack of it in my life. But there are also days that I know if I do love how I’m called to, Satan can twist it to make me believe I haven’t. And not based on how I actually love people, but based on people’s response to that love. That’s where love gets a little hazy. That’s where love is skewed to fit the mold we’ve made for it, that is far from its original design. Love is not based on someone’s response. Love is not based on mutual reciprocation. Love is love for the sake of love. I gotta read that again…Love is love simply for the sake of being love. It doesn’t put limitations or conditions on whether or not it’s given. True love in its purest form (purest form meaning: based on Christ’s example) gives even before receiving. (Romans 5:8) It gives without ever expecting love in return. So if someone responds to my love in a way that is hurtful or rejecting, I must continue to love. If Christ hasn’t stopped loving me thus far in my wretchedness, I can’t stop loving others either. I cannot love the way I’m supposed to without His example, without His direction, without Him.

I just want to be like Jesus. I just want to know Him and be changed by Him. It all boils down to love…it’s who He is, it’s who we’re called to be and it’s the way the world identifies that we belong to Him. (John 13:35) Without it, we are nothing and everything I believe in falls by the wayside. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) 

I’m Abusive

21 Jan

I find myself sitting on a couch in my living room talking about the movie The Help, culture and change with my mom and step-sister. Somehow our conversation has shifted to rebellious stages of life, our own and that of people we love. It’s crazy because I find my heart breaking day after day watching someone I love not get it. Watching someone playing the prodigal son role and it leaves me in tears. I have an aching to run towards them and help, but i know I can’t. And then I look at my own life and the times I run away from God when He’s clearly trying to run after me and get my attention and speak truth into my life. Or even when He uses people wiser and older than me to do the same. I sit here and think to myself, “I’ve been guilty of abusing grace…” Grace that God extends to me, grace that people I love have shown me. I’ve taken advantage of the fact that God will forgive me or people in my life will forgive me and I’ve abused their grace. It’s one thing for us to show unconditional love and unending grace, which we are called to do even when it is difficult, because that’s who Christ is. But it’s another thing when that love and grace is poured out on us and we make a mockery out of it because we have the mindset, “God always forgives, it’s who He is, so I’m ok. Oh, my best friend, or my brother, loves me no matter what, so it really isn’t a big deal.” That mindset has damaged and ruined relationships in my life. Because it’s been my mindset towards others and other’s towards me. My kindness and willingness to forgive so quickly has been taken advantage of countless times, and I don’t say that to toot my own horn. I bring it up, because it’s made me aware of when I do it to others…and I do it a lot. And if we’re honest with each other, we all do. We have those people in our lives who we know will stick by us through anything and everything. We have a God who we’ve been told and has proven will never leave us. And we justify hurting Him and them because of the love they constantly lavish on us.

All week God has been reminding me of Romans 6:1-2 “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” Yes, my God is a God who never lets go. A Savior who looks at me and says, “There’s nothing you could ever do to make me love you less.” And His amazing grace is constantly being poured over me. But when I know I’m in sin, when I know I’m not doing the things He’s asked me to do or called me to be, I can’t keep walking in that direction. We can’t keep justifying it, by using God’s grace as an excuse. It’s so very true that He will always forgive, but that doesn’t mean we don’t break His heart every time we do sin. Every time I choose to listen to me and ignore Him, I hurt Him. And that leaves a disgusting taste in my mouth because I think of all the times I have.

We have died to sin. Meaning it has no power over us any longer. Not that we live perfect lives and don’t mess up, but that it’s not our way of life any more. The life we live now, seeks to honor and glorify God in all we do and say and we look different from the rest of the world. I abuse His grace…I take advantage of His unconditional and unfathomable love because I know how quickly He’ll pick me back up, but I don’t want to live like that. I don’t want us as The Body to live like that. I want to make Him smile and obey Him simply because I love Him. I want to run away from the temptation to use the excuse, “He’ll forgive me anyway, so I can get away with this one more time.”