Bridezilla: A Letter to The American Church

I just want to gently remind you that following Jesus was not meant for four walls. I think you knew that, but it hasn’t seemed like the Church has behaved like it.

Jesus literally died on the cross so we could be the temple that carries his presence, his Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, people had to sacrifice spotless animals so God could cleanse them of their sins. Jesus was the spotless lamb who died for our sins so we could be free to spend eternity with him. There’s no separation anymore, if we choose. If we call on his name, we are saved, and we immediately have access to the Holy Spirit. He guides us, comforts us, helps us discern, and convicts us when we step in the wrong direction. 

With the Holy Spirit we are alive as the body of Christ. But I fear the loudest voices in the Church beg people to come to the circus rather than the cross. A show for entertainment rather than the way to salvation. God forbid Jesus comes back to find us petitioning with a megaphone instead of leading the broken to the cross.

When Governor Newsom halted singing in churches, he did not take away my freedom (or my ability to worship God for that matter). And assuming he doesn’t know Jesus, maybe he thinks worship is just singing. But you and I should both know that’s not all it is. I won’t pretend to know his motives, because quite frankly I don’t know him personally. 

If you are anxious to exercise your “rights,” let me remind you that no one is asking you to bow down to a gold statue and deny Jesus. If that’s happening, let’s talk about petitions. But the world is seeing the (American) Bride’s bad side. She’s being a bit of a bridezilla: always inconvenienced, hasty and dramatic.

I am embarrassed by protests and petitions for the American Church because I believe she’s missed the entire point of what worship is, and what the Church’s purpose is. 

I think some of the Church has puffed chests ready to fight, but has forgotten what to fight for: the lost. 

If a temple was the only way to meet God’s presence, then we’d have some talking to do. But because the Holy Spirit lives in you and me, we can worship God whenever, wherever and however. This is all because of the cross. 

Of course, all this bickering depends on how we define worship, but the Bible does not define worship to singing. We’ve allowed the governor to define what worship is to us. It’s tainted our view of worship. 

I believe we also have a skewed view of persecution. 

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were persecuted. I believe someone is persecuted when he or she is asked to deny Jesus, or is physically harmed for following him.

We are not being asked to deny Jesus. 

Christians in China are persecuted. They have to smuggle Bibles. And yet, we stomp our feet and clench our fists when we can’t sing with people who already know Jesus. We would rather sing songs in an empty building than offer a broken and contrite heart to the Lord. We would rather complain than pray. We would rather complain in a country where Bible verses are written on billboards and sidewalks, posted on wall decor in public, and we pass one church every few miles.

In America, it’s actually served as a variety of buffet options: online, on the lawn, and indoors.

But Americans petition what we don’t like. It’s actually how our country got started. People didn’t like England so they fled to America (I know I summed up centuries of history in one sentence, but stay with me). Our country is unique in this way; we can voice our ideals and bring forth change. 

Before we petition and protest and get angry, how are we representing God in this hour? I haven’t seen us love lately. We are allowed to have differing opinions, but if it’s not done in love, I don’t feel we are representing the same God. 

To display God in this dark hour (in which the country desperately needs the church), we should not be stirring up division, fear and anger. It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. And Church, we are not modeling this well. 

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

Facebook has become a place to debate ideals, and I have mostly seen divisive comments in the name of Christian patriotism.

I’m reminded of when the Israelites wanted a human king instead of God in 1 Samuel 8:7. I’m reminded of John 19:14-16 when the Jews wanted Caesar as king instead of Jesus (and then he was crucified). It reminds me of America, where we’ve put too much confidence in man, and therefore have been so let down by his decisions and mandates.

Have we really come to the point where we put our faith and hope in man’s (or woman’s) leadership? I have seen people equate pastors’ social media reach with spiritual authority. Politicians’ parties are equated with religion. No wonder we’ve fell to anger when things don’t line up. But we cannot look for man to fulfill the peace that only Jesus can. 

Hear me out, these rules and regulations since March don’t always make sense to me; they are contradictory and I don’t enjoy the way this year has played out. It’s been devastating in many ways to say the least.

But I don’t find my hope in politics or politicians! I don’t find it in my health, my job, my schooling or people in power. I don’t even find it in pastors. I find my hope in Jesus and in his Word. 

If it had not been for this season of getting out of the church building, maybe I wouldn’t have dug in so deeply to what the Bible says about sickness, death, fear and corruption. Maybe I would’ve allowed opinions and conspiracies to shape my view of the world and Jesus. Maybe I wouldn’t have talked so much about Jesus to people who don’t know him. 

Because the least we could do is share the gift of Jesus when the world is so divided and tired.

In most cases, the lost are not the ones coming to the church building right now. So we have to bring Jesus where we see hurting people.

I think we have grievously mistaken what our role as the Bride is right now: to love and share the Gospel.

If you and I believe the same thing about God’s word — that it’s inerrant, and it does not return void — then The Great Commission has not changed with the rhythms of society. We are to carry Jesus’ mission to preach the good news. In the middle of a pandemic, we are to love and spread the gospel.

If our goal is to finally knock down the doors (or lawn) of the church and sing with all the oxygen in our lungs during this Covid-19 era, then what is it for? Once we all finally get our way, will we look to our right and left, and just see fellow Christians? Are we looking to preach to the choir, or to actually be missionaries to our neighbors, coworkers, and families? 

I hope we aren’t fighting for our “rights” without remembering where our hope is and what it’s all for. Without remembering that we have lost souls to share Jesus with. 

Our world is hurting, Church. People need to see Jesus right now. They are scared, anxious, confused and caught in conspiracies. And they starve for hope.

They are grasping for something tangible— something concrete. And rather than offering them living water (John 4), we respond via social media with angry, condescending and malicious comments.

What spills out of us in a time of pressure has to be the Holy Spirit, otherwise the world will pass on the whole Jesus thing. They’ll drink something that looks more appetizing. 

If you’re one who has been struggling with this, ask the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you. Read the Word to realign your thoughts. Stop forming an opinion based on social media shares, and look to the Truth. Start asking God for wisdom based on his Word, which never changes.

We should not be surprised when people, politicians, celebrities, media and corporations fail us. They will. 

But Jesus is the one who has overcome the world (John 14).

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)

But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:8-12)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22)

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him…A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression…The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe. Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the LORD that a man gets justice. (Proverbs 29:20, 22, 25, 26) 

***disclaimer*** I was very hesitant to write this, because the last thing I ever want to do is be divisive. But nonetheless, I believe it needs to be said. If you have comments, I ask that it would display the fruit of the spirit, not condemning (filled with grace), and that it would not come from a place of stirring up anger and arguments (Proverbs 18:19,21; Proverbs 19:11; Proverbs 29:22; Galatians 5:22-26)

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On Canceled Plans and Grieving

This week I’ve had to flip ahead to May to write some due dates in my planner, because using my planner brings me a sense of normalcy. And every time I flip to May, I see this all-caps reminder to myself in the May 15 box.

GRADUATION! 

I jotted it down way back in January to keep me focused during my last semester. I just can’t seem to cross it off, and I don’t think I want to.

When I pass this hot pink reminder, I remember the stressful days running from class to work and eating my lunch in my car. I remember the hustle, and counting down the weeks until it was over. May 15 would hold a little hope for me amidst my piling due dates and demands.

And now instead of bubbling up with excitement, I tear up a little. It’s a “would-have” day now. The day I would have graduated (I still graduate, but you know what I mean). And that is sad. 

Grief is kind of like that. This gross familiar feeling of mixing happy memories with sad realities. This happy thing that once held so much anticipation and excitement is kinda bitter now, and this excitement now dances with sadness surrounding May 15. 

I don’t want this whole spiel to be sad. I mean, a lot of what we read and see lately is just heavy, and I don’t care to add to that. But I think I’m just allowing it to be sad. And maybe I’m trying to remind you not to compare your grief with others.

This is a great time for empathy and compassion. We all bring a different level of pain and canceled plans to the table. Some are seniors in high school; some don’t know where their next meals are coming from; some live too far away from family; some don’t like being with their family; some are single moms; some are having to turn their dream weddings into at-home elopements. The list honestly goes on and on. 

I think the internet is a breeding ground for comparing canceled plans. You might be the single mom wondering how you’ll pay rent. And for you, I would trade my trivial canceled graduation. But comparing pain is never the point. Empathy is always the point. What’s healing is when we can lean on each other in whatever capacity we’re grieving. Just listen and be there.

If I know anything about grief, it’s that God walks with us through it. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is good at using our pain, and restoring broken things. Canceled things. God has the capacity to be exactly what we need today. I know that when Jesus met the woman at the well in John 4, he was able to give her living water to meet her deepest needs. He can do the same for you and me. 

I’ve been reminding myself (some days I’m better at it than others) of Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” 

I’m sorry for your loss in this season. But cling to him. He always fills the void of heartache and loss.

Canceled plans and all, God has made this day, and so I can find goodness in it. It might be a different kind of goodness than I’m used to, but I can look for it.

It might be a different kind of goodness than I’m used to, but I can look for it.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV). 

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I Think God is Holding out on Me

It’s never enough. We double tap, we snap, we share. And it’s never enough. Someone always has it better, someone is always happier, thinner, and every other “-er” you can think of. And we want it. We want “-er” so badly because we feel good to be noticed. We want people to like and applaud us. Applause is the sound our culture and generation loves so much.

“I want you to love me like I love me!” Our culture screams, “Self-care,” and, “You do you.”

“It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.”

But we’re hurting. All of us. Why has “self-care” generation turned into the such a self-obsessed, attention-hogging, empty, and jealous generation?

Is it ironic? No. Inevitable? Yes.

I would love to write about how I defeated comparison once and for all, as if it’s not something I battle. But we’re talking present tense here, because like most struggles, they come back again. Sometimes they’ll resurface in a different area than before. I know I face comparison in different ways than I did at 18 years old.

If I pretend comparison doesn’t exist, I ignore a huge problem in my life. I think we all struggle with this. We always hear discussion around social media, and how it’s a comparison black hole. I am uncomfortable living a life that is always looking to the next best thing, the next best upgrade, the next season of life, and the person next to me who has the next best thing.

It’s my search for “enough” that has kept me running after things that are really not designed to fulfill me.

You know what that “thing” is for you. I know what mine is. Sometimes more than one thing comes to mind.

With each area of comparison we question what God is doing, or what he’s not doing. With comparison, we mostly question what he’s not doing on our time and our agenda. We question God’s heart when we have our eye on something that looks better.

It sounds a lot like Adam and Eve when they ate from the tree. God told them not to eat from one tree. Satan tempts Eve and she starts to believe that God is holding out on her by asking her not to eat from this forbidden tree. Isn’t it funny that what looks like God holding out on us is actually just his protection?

He gives us this entire garden and to protect us from destruction, he creates boundaries. These boundaries are purposeful, but they look an awful lot like hindrances to what we love. What if we truly believed God wasn’t holding out on us? We would live with more freedom, purpose, and joy in each season.

So how do we tackle this? How do we get past the rotten comparison that our good ol’ friend Pinterest says is “the thief of joy”?

Here are some thoughts to help you navigate:

Comparison attacks the areas we care about the most. God made us the way we are for a reason–for purpose. But with those qualities come a responsibility to use them well. If we aren’t careful we can idolize these areas that we care about. Soon enough these comparison traps are our idols. For instance, we might be idolizing recognition or fame when we compare social media likes. We might be idolizing our body image we compare it.

The ladder of thankfulness helps you climb out of the rut. Being thankful is hard when you’re complaining…and complaining is hard when you’re thankful. You really can’t have them at the same time, so which choice wins?

My prayer is that you will choose thankfulness. You see, thankfulness is the key to freedom from jealousy, greed, and coveting.

I don’t want to fear lack of; I want to rest in abundance of. When we are too busy looking at what others have, we miss the gold right in front of our eyes. Eve thought she was lacking something. If we can get good at identifying the gold, that is a thankful heart, we will rest in our abundance that God has provided.

Fear implies I’m in control, but rest implies God is in control. And how good is Jesus at multiplying small amounts of things anyway (hint: very good)? We can rest in his control; we can rest in abundance.

It’s not about me. In the end, comparison focuses on “me” rather than God. If I’m going to really get this thing right, it has to be about a life after God’s heart and not a mountain of blessings.

So how can I practically process this in my own life when the comparison monster creeps its way in? Well, here are some questions I ask myself to dodge the monster’s unwelcome stay in my heart:

Where/how does comparison show up in my heart?

What does my comparison reveal that I am fearing? What do I believe God is holding back from me?  

What is God’s truth about my comparison?

Can I trust God to fulfill my desires? Be honest, and think of ways he’s been faithful in the past.

So now we’ve identified the areas. How do we change our hearts? It always begins with thankfulness.

What is the JOY of this area (what are you thankful for)?

What is the work of this area (what is God asking of me with what he’s given me)?

YOU have purpose, promises of God on your life, and you are called to do extraordinary things whether you believe it or not. God created you to live in this moment, to influence the specific set of people around you, all for his kingdom. Living with eternity in mind is our goal as we pursue his call on our lives. If you ever need a reminder of that, you can read any of these Bible passages: Philippians 4:6-13, Hebrews 10:19-39, Psalm 139, and Proverbs 4:25-27.

Here’s the challenge:

If you need to create a habit of thankfulness, draw a ladder (or imagine one if you’re not the drawing type). Add a rung on the ladder for every thing you’re thankful for. Look at the rungs and see what God is doing! Look at his faithfulness and provision over your life.

And watch yourself climb out of that pit, girlfriend.

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The Secrets We Keep

Secrets can be a great place of intimacy or they can be a place of shame that separates because of manipulation and sin.

“Secrets don’t make friends.”

We’d say this if we were jealous and wanted this supposed top-secret information. We don’t like to be on the outside; we want to be in the know. Maybe you’ve been in on a surprise for someone else. If you’ve ever learned what it feels like to ruin the privilege of a keeping this secret, you know what it feels like to be on the outside.

I believe that’s what Adam and Eve felt–they had the most intimate secret to keep. But their mistake is not where it ends for us.

You know the story: Adam and Eve sinned because they ate the one fruit God instructed them not to (what we can’t have always looks the best, huh?). They notice they’re naked and they are shameful, so they hide. It’s our first instinct to keep secrets from God. We don’t want him to see our mistakes, and we certainly don’t want him to know our sin. We feel more comfortable to run, hide, and bury our sin. These secrets we keep from God separate us. They pit our ugly sin against a holy, perfect God. And why would we want that exposed? So we cover. We hide. We keep it a secret.

And isn’t it just like God to come closer to us even in our sin? I mean, he’s been doing this since Eden. If that wasn’t enough, he sent Jesus to reel us in closer even after Israel rejected God. Here we are today still struggling with this urgency to not let God see us and love us through imperfection; we can’t seem to fathom it.

God is so good at bridging the gap that he took our ugly secrets and turned them into intimacy with him–the secret place with him. This is my favorite secret with God because it’s one I don’t feel a heavy weight over. It’s a secret that brings freedom. You’ll notice that in Genesis 3:21 when Adam and Eve are trying to hide under their own clothes, God comes to give them new covering. God just wants to have the secret place with us–it’s the space we share with him that connects us to him.

Now I know that I have tried to keep secrets from God, and I’d assume you have too. And I know how it hurts to feel that distance between our guilt and His holiness. It makes it seem irreparable. Yet he still restores that secret place with us. He sent Jesus to physically be this closeness, and his Holy Spirit to be close to us now, even after Jesus isn’t physically with us in 2018. This is his restoration of the secret place we traded for the secret sins we kept.

And can you believe that all this time he still had that grand plan for us? It started before we could use language of any kind. He formed us in the secret place. Psalm 139:15-16 reminds us that absolutely nothing was hidden from God when he made us in secret; He planned out our days long before we knew of them. We were fully exposed before him while he was creating us and shaping us. We were exposed at our worst, yet fully known and fully loved for it.

And when I am imperfect, my tendency is to hate my sin and run from God. I don’t want him to see my mess. I am good at concealing. After all, we don’t normally invite people over to a messy house, or post pictures of our weakest moments. We don’t know what it is to be loved in our mess because we are trained to correct it. Yet God loves anyway. It’s unfathomable, and it is my best secret to share with you. He has corrected our shameful secrets and restored them with the secret place with him. And he’s multifaceted enough to share this space with every individual on this planet, because he shared it with you in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

I would challenge you to reevaluate whether you share secrets with God or keep them from God. I promise that God wants to be close to you, and he wants you to be free and restored.

Lean in to the secret place.

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Close The Door Behind You

“Close the door behind you.”

 

It’s a common phrase that maybe you’ve heard when you’re leaving the house. Maybe it’s a simple-minded task to close the door when you rush out the door, but God reminded me that it’s not just for the daily rush. Sometimes we need to be reminded to close the door on the things we leave so we can walk into something new.

 

Transition is hard. I’ve had my share of change and transition in the past two years. I’ve learned to accommodate to the change; I’ve thrown my hands up on this roller coaster and embraced the ride because somewhere in between the huge drops there’s really fun parts to laugh. And if I’m honest, transition implies that I have to leave some great things behind. I don’t always want to do that, and I know I’m not alone.

 

Somewhere scrolling through social media, we’ve stumbled across cliché quotes that beg us to believe that there’s better things ahead for us. But it’s really hard to believe that when you are closing the door on your own plans that crumbled. You close this door in faith that God has a better plan than you can dream up for yourself.

 

I know of a few Israelites who looked back on the past and were wandering in the desert wishing away the very freedom that God gave them (Exodus 16). God gave them the very food they needed in order to move forward out of captivity, yet they were blind to God’s grace because they decided their way was better than whatever provision he was trying to give them. I don’t want to live like this. I want to be confident in my transitions from one door to the next. Sometimes it requires patience—a lot of patience. Sometimes it requires remembering that God is good, worth my trust, and a promise keeper.

 

I have no idea what type of transition you are in. I have no clue what amazing things you are forced to leave behind in this new season. But I do know one thing: if you dare shut that door behind you (to maybe some amazing things that make it hard to leave), God will surprise you. It’s hard to believe that our future can be as beautiful as some of the things we are leaving behind. But if you shut the door behind you and walk in faith, God will be right there to walk to the next place with you. Ask God to help you see the beauty in shutting that door—and leaving all of that (whatever “that” is to you personally) to stay behind you.

 

I know it is hard. But I can tell you it’s possible. Don’t be scared to leave the beautiful behind you to step into what God has next. God is good at making beautiful twice.

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Honest Hour

I have fallen into the trap of believing that whatever I write a blog post about, I have to have already perfected. This is such a lie, and it struck me as I read part of Lysa TerKeurst’s Uninvited this morning. We humans are a work in progress and it’s so important for us to admit that we aren’t perfect. More importantly, it’s important for me to admit that I do not have it all together, and I never want this to stop my ability to let God use my words through my imperfect heart. I do not have to master everything I discuss. And while God does a work in my heart with the things I post, He is ultimately the one who speaks through me. And sometimes, I am blown away at the things that come from the pen to paper because He is in control of the thoughts and words coming through my mind when I shut out distractions. I know I’m not the only one (pause to serenade Sam Smith for everyone) who feels this pressure from either myself or any other outside factor to have it together as a Christian. The danger is when we regard our appearance for people over what God sees (Galatians 1:10).

I can think of a couple people who made a mess and tried to look perfect on the outside: Adam and Eve. In Genesis 3, they both hid from God because they were afraid of honesty and being exposed. But I’ve learned that being exposed and vulnerable actually medicates the addiction of looking perfect on the outside. Let us face the reality that looking at our sin or shortcoming in the face is not pretty. But like Adam and Eve, healing comes after we face the ugly. When we realize we are messy, that we have poison on our flesh, and we have created a tangle of lies, God can redeem and restore. And He is really good at it.

Leading from a place of vulnerability is not a matter of complaining about your struggles in order that others can fill the gap for you; rather, it is about sharing the brokenness we all experience, and giving God the glory in the ways He is walking alongside you.

So, what are we supposed to do with this? How can we become vulnerable?

We admit that we cannot be perfect (1 John 1:8-9), and we accept God’s invitation to come close. Sometimes you might not have to look or listen too much in order to hear God. This is not the case for me in this season. I am in a place of being silent because God’s voice is a whisper. I am fine-tuning my ears because God is leading me in less obvious ways than I have been used to in the past year. Regardless of where you find yourself, we need to choose to accept the invitation to His presence in every single day. He invites us to come close (James 4:8). He is already here, but when we choose to come, it changes everything.

The very name of Jesus is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). What a fitting name for the God that lives inside our hearts and walks alongside our imperfections even when we mask them as perfections.

There are distinct moments when people in the Bible chose to accept the invitation of God to come near and He met them there. The common thread for each one: faith to show up and vulnerability to be seen through mistakes. God is showing me that vulnerability present tense; it is not vulnerability only after I have cleaned up my mess (or so I think). In order to expose my faults, it requires the faith to believe God’s grace loves me through this, and if you allow Him, He will meet you right in that mess and restore your soul.

 

But enough about my words. Try it for yourself.

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Our Heaven on Earth

It really wasn’t until my mom passed away that I experienced the distance between heaven and earth. There is such a separation between the perfection of heaven and the brokenness of earth. I am thankful that my mom is experiencing the fullness of God, and she is whole and well in a perfect heaven we can only dream of until we experience it ourselves. I can’t help but wonder how perfect it must be, because we remain on an earth filled with sorrow, heartache, fear, uncertainty, and brokenness. Because I’ve become aware of this separation, I am hungry for the perfection of God. That’s what we long for. It’s the emptiness we feel when we’re lost; we need Jesus to fill it. I long for that closeness of God where I don’t have to experience a deep pain like we do on earth. Wars, bad test results, job losses, mistakes, and deaths. But because of Jesus we can experience heaven on earth.

 

We can be made whole, and we have an answer to that longing for God’s presence: Jesus. Though the world shakes with terrible news, diseases, tears, and heartache, we have the strength of God because Jesus Christ was heaven sent to earth. He flooded the earth with heaven and Jesus is the threshold to that paradise. How intimate that such a God would send Jesus to be the pathway for us. Jesus came as a tangible gift when he came as heaven in the form of flesh and bone. Even though we are made in the likeness of God, he came down to walk a life in the flesh; a man born into an unforgiving, selfish world who was willing to live among imperfection despite being perfect.

 

Jesus is the very threshold we enter to the presence of the Holy Spirit. He is heaven itself that entered the fragments of earth. Even you and I were born in a more dignifying way than he was. His humble arrival was less than perfect. No one could even make room for Mary to deliver the one who would save the world. But he accepted a life of imperfection. How loving of God that he would think up a solution to our mess by allowing Jesus to experience this painful world. He is the hope of the world, and he’s alive in us. Because of Jesus I can have the hope that heaven brings; a hope that breathes life into my dreams. I’m thankful that he didn’t leave us alone in our tangled mess; instead he left a tangible, human solution. His name is Immanuel. He is God with us, present with us on this desperate earth as living hope. With us (Matthew 1:23).

 

I’m forever thankful that my life is changed and I can live eternally in the presence of God all because He sent Jesus to our desperate and lonely earth that night. Eternity arrived in human form to be with us; what a reminder that we’re not alone. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to fill our hearts with any counterfeit versions of the wholeness heaven has to offer. Jesus is the wholeness we crave, and because he came to earth, we can access the wholeness in the middle of our struggles. What a Savior.

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The Unfair Love

Grace and love are topics that are often talked about in church (obviously, because it’s the gospel). But I have had the tendency to listen to the words without really understanding the full meaning in my heart. When we try to grasp the meaning of grace in regards to our own struggles in life and measure them against the sin that God pardoned for all mankind, we will be overflowing with gratitude.

 

Here’s the thing about God’s love: it does not hold out on us, it’s not passive-aggressive, it’s never small, but it is always daring, bold, and too vast for our understanding. Grace meets us right where we’re at. It takes us by the hand and leads us to deeper places that are hidden in God’s heart. It doesn’t keep us in the low places; rather, it tenderly loves us while we’re mending. Grace calls you “enough.” It says that even though God is completely aware of your sin, mistakes, trials, and flaws, you are unconditionally loved (all parts of you) infinitely more than you are capable of imagining. This grace isn’t fair; it’s not at all what we deserved. God knows this, and He still chose to love us instead of punishing us. This love isn’t broken; it’s whole and unchanging. My failures don’t stop his love, and yours don’t either. This love doesn’t force me, but instead leads me to living fully abandoned to God. I am radically changed by a love that could take a broken, shattered heart and mend it back together as if to never be broken to begin with. He knows each crack, bruise, and hole in my heart, and this makes him the best healer. I don’t want to fill these spaces with anything but the best remedy: God’s infinite love.

 

Grace gives me permission to not measure up. I can just call on the name of Jesus despite my mistakes and imperfection, and I’m forgiven. What an unfair love this is.

 

His love is so detailed and so intricate. He is so intentional in the way he loves. He sees you and He takes notice. He cares so deeply about you, about where you’re at, about what you care about, and about the journey you’re on. He didn’t miss or skip over you. Allow him to love on you. Allow yourself to feel His love. It’s the most compassionate love you’ll ever feel both in this life and in eternity. Grace and love are tenderly waiting for you; all you have to do is just ask for it.

 

Because I have God working in me, I am challenged to lend tangible grace and love to people so they notice that it comes from a well that never runs dry; this well can handle the scarcity of drought and it doesn’t worry about my natural inability to love. This well overflows. I’m in awe and wonder at the thought of a God who would repay my sin and wicked heart by spending eternity with him, handing me victorious freedom, and a spotless heart. I don’t want to abuse this grace by living in sin; but because of His wild love for me, I am drawn to this mysterious love, and I want it. He paid my sin back with a way out. What a beautiful, crazy, and unfair love.

 

When you’re going through trying times and your faith is shaken to the core, He is not punishing you. I don’t know why the terrible things happen aside from a result of our fallen world. But I do know He cares and He doesn’t like to watch you suffer. He endures the pain with you. He walks with you through the fire time and time again. The flames of that fire won’t even burn you (Isaiah 43:2). His love is all protecting; it’s a living shield of protection and help as you walk this earth.

 

I have no clue why God’s love saved us. He sent Jesus to bear the weight of the world’s sins. This didn’t take our human nature away, but it allows us to be completely pardoned and wiped clean of sin. In spite of our sinful nature, God still says we are forgiven and He loves us the way we are. Jesus is the way to eternity in heaven. Because he lived a perfect life, you and I don’t have to measure up. Because he paid for my sin, you and I don’t have to. What an unfair love this is. Thank you, God.

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Harvest Time

Life is all about the seasons; some are good and some are bad. Sometimes we are hesitant to the change of a season, and other times it is embraced. As we immerse ourselves into fall, I’ve had seasons on my mind. They come like clockwork, and we all know the patterns: the weather starts to cool off (sometimes a little slower than I would like), and the leaves start to change color and fall off the trees. The trees go from lush, green, and full to dry, bare, and frail. We see this process and find beauty in the dry and barren trees, because we know that in just a few months the trees will flourish with new life and beauty. I want to look at my own life like this, but some days it is too hard to see the beauty in the empty parts of life. But we serve a God who faithfully turns our seasons over to new life and flourishes the barren places into beauty and restoration; He’s the one who creates rain after drought, and spring after winter. He’s the one who produces harvest after pruning.

Pruning is essential in plants. It removes the dead and broken areas and actually produces a greater harvest. Think of it as getting rid of the excess. It’s an essential step in growing, and spiritual pruning will beautifully mold us just as it does to a garden of roses. Though it does have a beautiful outcome, it’s the process that’s painful, uncomfortable, and confusing. It’s a process of development and faith in the new life to come. This new life is a full life that glorifies His goodness. He will delete the unhealthy areas that are harmful to growth and show decay, and give our fruitfulness better quality to the pruned areas. He rearranges the things that were once good for a past season, and produces the higher quality for what you are about to walk into. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful (John 15:2).

Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. We have little control over the grand scheme of our lives as well as the details that go into each day because sometimes life is just an unpredictable mess, but God divinely arranges the seasons in our lives. He’s never early and He’s never late, and He’s oh so detailed. We are sure to bear fruitfulness when God is the source of life that we draw from.

God is well aware of the season you’re in. It is part of your story, and it’s a carefully orchestrated plan. Maybe you’re in the best season of your life (harvest), or you find yourself in a difficult one (pruning). He’s got it all mapped out, and He is a very detailed and careful planner who has the harvest in mind. I know that we can embrace our process of pruning as we realize that God is faithful in what He starts, and He won’t leave us empty.

Get ready. Your harvest is coming.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

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Thanks a Bunch

I’ve learned quite a lot about thankfulness in the past year, and it’s changed my life. Whether in the middle of organized chaos or your mountain top season, thankfulness will turn your heart upside down, and you’ll realize God is actually fighting for you, that He keeps His promises, and that He sees you. We can be thankful because…

The Bible says to. This is our number one reason for living a sincerely thankful life. When our hearts are sincerely in awe of God’s character, we begin to realize that we don’t deserve the way He made through Jesus, which truly turns the attention to Him. Thankfulness is entirely about God, not ourselves. Our existence is to glorify God; our very nature of living our lives out for God is an act of thankfulness. It’s our pleasure to do the will of God, because we were made for it (Philippians 4:4, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Psalm 32:11).

It displaces fear. And when I say fear, I am also talking about its close relatives too (worry, anxiety, stress). When we are busy putting Philippians 4:6 into practice, we are spending more of our time trusting and relaxing in the faithfulness of God to carry us through. I want to be there. I used to fear trusting in God (ironic, yes) because it would put me out of my own control, and leave me available for plans and possessions to be ripped from my hands. On the other side of surrender, I can assure you that God is not out to get you, but He does in fact want to give you an abundance of life at a higher quality than what you’re currently clinging onto for dear life.

It increases your awareness of Him. Sometimes I feel like God has taken a lunch break on me; maybe He left and decided someone else’s prayers were more interesting. Or maybe He is right in front of me, holding my hand as I carefully maneuver through every moment. Thankfulness makes me aware of who God is: never changing and always faithful in the darkest, coldest, lowest valleys. It makes me aware that even in the middle of my sorrows, He provides peace, comfort, and joy; that is something to be thankful for at any time of life.

It destroys discontentment. Discontentment is a competitive, negative, and exhausting disease. It will nag at you, persuading you that nothing is good enough. A “nothing is good enough” mindset can apply to any area of our lives in more ways than one if we’re not careful to keep it in check. However, a thankful heart will recognize the blessings already around you, and you realize God is sustaining it all so you don’t need to strive to keep up. Living in discontentment will actually create a hurdle that keeps us from doing what God has called us to do (Philippians 2:14-15; 4:11). It becomes all about shifting our focus to God, rather than to the ever-changing stuff.

 

It creates peace. By being thankful, we are celebrating who God is. Philippians 4:7 says that when we combine prayer and thankfulness, peace will wash over our hearts. This peace goes beyond what we can even understand. Again, it is completely from God, and not anything we could do for ourselves. It removes anxiety, replaces it with peace, and opens the door for God to move in our lives because worrying in circles is long gone. His warm presence will be openly invited when you decide to be thankful.

It is surrender at its finest. “In everything,” is a little part I like to skip over sometimes in Philippians 4:6. But I want to help you out here: God is not asking you to be thankful for a bad day, week, or year. I’m personally not thankful for what I’m going through right now, but I am incredibly thankful at how God is holding my family and me up in the middle of the most outrageous time in our lives. He asks that in the middle of your toughest (or best) times, be thankful for all of it. It’s easy to question God’s plan sometimes. But just when you think He’s misguiding your steps, you realize He was graciously arranging you to fit His mold in a way you could’ve never dreamt up if you tried. By being thankful, we are also expectant for all that God has in store in seasons to come.

These are only a few reasons to be thankful, and your reasons will be beautifully personal to your own life. But I hope that when life rains on your parade, you have a little umbrella to keep yourself dry. Oh, and remember to use the umbrella when it’s sunny too.

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