Wonder

“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3.

There’s something magical about our earliest experiences during childhood. Our first time time losing a tooth. Our first trip to an amusement park. Our first time riding a bike without training wheels. Our first couple of Christmases – when we couldn’t wait to wake up and see what ‘Santa‘ had left under our tree. I know that if i look back over my own childhood experiences, I can think of many times that I remember vividly. I can also remember the feelings that accompanied them – a feeling that can most accurately be described in one word: wonder.

Somewhere along the way, that wonder often gets lost. We grow up and we learn what to expect. We become jaded. We become bored. We begin to see life as a list of tasks to be done, rather than an adventure to be lived. And too often, we carry this same attitude over into our faith.

For many of us, it can happen unintentionally. We get busy with work and school and our faith gets pushed to the back burner. We face opposition from the world and dim our light. Sometimes, we can even get so caught up in knowing information that we lose track of what it means to simply be known – interacting with God on an intellectual scale rather than a personal one. Somehow, it can be all too easy to make our faith a part of our routine—losing track of the wonder of being known, saved, and loved by our God. 

Jesus never intended for us to live this life halfheartedly. In Luke 10:27, He says that the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength—and to love your neighbor as yourself. He doesn’t want half of our heart, or part of our heart—He wants our whole heart, and every bit of wonder that comes from a life sold out to Christ.

This is not about legalism or salvation. We are saved the moment that we accept Christ as our Savior. But we can never experience the fullness that God has for us if we don’t continuously seek Him in our day-to-day lives. Through God’s Holy Spirit living inside of us, we have the power to do great and mighty things that are beyond anything we can ask or imagine. We have the power to be bold and courageous and to make a difference for God’s Kingdom. All that we have to do is come to God with an open heart and seek the fullness of His presence—falling in love over and over again with the God who didn’t want to spent eternity without us.  

I’m writing about this because this is something that I need to hear myself. It’s a lesson that I still need to learn every day along with every other Christian fighting the good fight and living out a reckless, passionate faith in God. We could all grow in wonder of our God—as we worship, pray, study His Word, and seek His presence.

This week, I want to challenge you to recapture the wonder that you had as a child in your relationship with God. To ask Him to fill your heart more deeply with the joy and power of the Holy Spirit. To carry an attitude of worship with you as you go throughout your week. To cultivate a closer relationship with the one who created you.

To never stop approaching our Heavenly with wide-eyed, childlike wonder. 

Favorite part of the song – I see the world Your way/ and I”m not afraid to follow/ I see the world Your way/ And I’m not ashamed to say so/ I see the Jesus way/ And I’m walking in the light.

How about you? How do you believe we can approach our faith with a sense of wonder? If you have any thoughts feel free to share them in the comments section below! 

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Salt And Light

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-16 

If you’ve been in church for a while, it is more than likely that you’ve heard this passage before. You’ve probably also heard variations of it – with faith-based tee shirts and song lyrics by Christian bands and artists. But what does it really mean to shine your light? What does it look like to impact people for Christ at your school, work, or area of influence? 

In short, shining a light means being bold. It means stepping out of your comfort zone and letting others see that you’re a Christian sold out for Christ. It means being open about your faith, and sharing it through your actions and words with those around you. It means offering to pray for a co-worker who’s struggling, sharing your story to encourage others, and being aware of the needs of those around you—even when you feel as though you are at a deficit. It means daring to be brave through God’s grace and strength in us.

This has been something that I’ve been thinking about and praying about a lot over the course of the last couple of months. It has been one of the many things that God has been speaking to me about and something that I’ve been striving to make more of an effort to do—both in my writing and in my day-to-day relationships and interactions with the world around me. Little by little, I’m learning how to be more bold—stepping out in faith and being brave for Christ in my actions and words.

It can be so easy to get caught up in the status quo. To get so caught up in the things of this world that we loose track of the one thing that we are ultimately chasing after. It’s easy to stay quiet—and keep our light hidden under a bowl. But as Christians, we are called to something greater than this. Something big, and scary, and wonderful, and amazing all at the same time. We are called to boldness for Christ. We are called to take risks in sharing our faith for the sake of His Kingdom. We are called to look a little crazy sometimes, as we seek to live to change lives through the power of the Gospel.

And as Christians, we are never in this alone. 

In John 14:15-21, Jesus says, If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, to give us courage, peace, and bravery as we seek to live for God. He does not leave us alone to fend for ourselves—He is always with us. And if we continue to press into God and seek His will, the Holy Spirit will lead us in ways that are beyond our wildest dreams. He will bring us closer to who God intended us to be and guide us towards living confidently for Him! And He will help us to be bold for Christ and make an impact on the lives around us.

We don’t know everyone’s story. There’s an old quote that says, “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” There’s another quote that says, “You may be the only Bible someone ever reads”. There are so many people in this world who are hurting and broken. There are so many people who are looking for hope—and something to hold onto. There are so many people who have the wrong idea about Christianity—and feel that they can never be good enough for God.

In a world filled with the wrong voices, we are called to be a bold voice of love. We are called to show people what it really means to be a Christian. That it’s not a list of rules and orders. It’s not a contract with an impersonal god. It’s not a life without joy. It’s an invitation to a table where everyone is welcome. It’s a joy beyond reason. It’s a a heart for the broken, the outcast, and the marginalized. It’s a love that changes our lives.

This world will someday fade away, and it will take with it our possessions, our accomplishments, and awards. The one thing that will never fade away is the souls of the people around us—and the difference that we make in their lives. I don’t know about you, but I want to invest my life into something that will matter. I want to make a difference and leave a legacy—something lasting, that moths and rust can’t destroy.

I want to shine with my life. I want to be bold for Jesus. 

And, I want to challenge you to do the same.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 

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The Power Of Words

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” – Proverbs 15:4. 

“You can’t sit here.” 

I still remember the first time I ever heard those words. I was in a Christian girl scouts group in the 6th grade. I was a gawky and awkward preteen. I was also painfully shy. I remember being partly in shock; why was it that this girl was refusing to let me sit with her, when as far as I could tell, she wasn’t saving that seat for anyone? I had never done anything to make her not like me—I didn’t even know her! I also remember feeling hurt, unsure what I could have done to make her respond the way that she did.

Over the years, I’ve dealt with more incidents like this. Incidents where I was forced to sit by myself in a classroom. Incidents where the ‘cool girls‘ refused to talk to me. Incidents where cliques and girl-politics abounded. I also witnessed friends deal with this. And sometimes, it was what wasn’t said that spoke the loudest. 

Like many teenagers in high school, I’ve dealt with my share of being-bullied and being on the outside. I’ve dealt with my share of loneliness. I’ve dealt with the creeping feeling that I don’t belong. I am grateful to say it was never as terrible as what some have experienced—with constant torment or physical abuse. But words can still hurt—and our words and actions can carry a lasting impact on the lives of those around us. 

However, because of my own personal experiences with words, I have become more aware of their affect on the lives of those around us. I have become more aware of those on the fringes, and have made a promise to myself that whenever possible, I would use my words to uplift, encourage, and include. That I would never use them to make a person feel less-then or to tear someone down Today, I am determined to never make another person feel the way that I felt back in jr. high school. 

Because if there’s one thing that I’ve also learned over the years, it’s that words of affirmation can make an impact too. An encouraging word, a prayer over a friend, and a decision to befriend someone who’s new all have the potential to turn someone’s whole year around. And every day, we have the opportunity be this person to someone—whether it be at school, work, church, or the local grocery store down the street. We have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and show others the amazing love that He’s shown each one of us—shining a light for His Kingdom and reaching out to those who are hurting and broken.

John 13:34-35 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

No matter who you are or what your life looks like, you have people in your sphere of influence who are watching you. Who know that you’re a Christian and are looking to you to see what it means to be a follower of Christ. Whether your the head cheerleader at your high school, or the shy girl hiding behind the safety of a textbook, your life and your words matter. And you have the chance to impact those around you with your words.

We hold within us the power to touch lives in our conversations and the choices that we make every day. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” (NLT). As we go into this new and upcoming school year (whether you’re still in school or not), let us make a conscious effort to let our words be a light, and a city on a hill that cannot be shaken (Matthew 5:14). Let us reach out to those who are hurting, and stand up for those who are being bullied.

Let us love with our words and with our life. 

Let us never miss out on a chance to speak life and shine our light for Christ. 

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“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:8-11

B.A.S.I.C. – A Post About Love

“He said come to the table, come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior now, sit down and be set free. Come to the table.” – Sidewalk Prophets 
Recently, I have been challenged to write a post about love. The challenge came up on Sunday night, as I was talking to a group of friends at church, and one of them mentioned that she had recently read a devotional about love. Thus, she gave me this challenge, when I asked for blogging suggestions: write about love. 
And in that moment, I accepted the challenge.
Initially, I wasn’t quite sure which kind of love to write about (According to C.S. Lewis, there are four different kinds; storage, philia, eros, and agape). My first instinct was to write a post about God’s love, but I had just written about that two posts back, in #RelationshipGoals. My other thought was to write about dating relationships, which is something I’ve been studying lately. But, that didn’t feel quite right for this post either, although I would like to eventually touch on that topic more in the future. Finally, my mom gave me this idea, as I was talking with her the other day.
Write about B.A.S.I.C. – what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ. 
And, as you can see by the title of this post, this is the topic that stuck. 
For as long as I can remember, the vision of every believer being part of the family of God has always captivated me. Growing up as an only child, there were often times when I used to imagine what it would be like to have a brother or a sister. I would watch my friends interact with their siblings, and wonder what it would be like to have a sibling of my own. Thus, when I accepted Christ and read Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:50 that “Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”  I was immediately intrigued.
Since then, I have grown to see more and more the beauty of this teaching, and how it directly relates to the real-in-the-now moments of each of our lives. How it changes the way that we see and interact with those around us, and how it gives us a vision of hope and love to live out in a world that seems to grow a little more cold, isolated, and autonomous every day.
Every person that we meet is a person that is, or has the potential to become our brother or sister in Christ. And God desires that each one of us would choose to become a part of this big, diverse, worldwide family. He wants to adopt each one us as His sons and daughters, and wants each of us to turn to Him as our Heavenly Father.
What would happen if each one of us chose to truly live this teaching out to its full? What if each one of us really chose to see each other this way, and treat each other like family? What if we chose to embrace one and other with this kind of radical love in a world that is too often governed by division and hate? What would change in our communities? Our cities? Our nations? Our world?
And how incredible of witness would it be for our faith? 
Right now, the world is starving for something real. In a world of shallow connections, airbrushed images, and competitions for the most ‘likes’,  we are desperately in need of real love, family, and community. One that will be there for us when things get hard and the odds seem stacked against us.
What if we, as Christians, made the choice every day to love?
To love God.
 
To love our brothers and sisters in Christ?
 
To love those who God wants to bring into the family?
What if we made the words of John 13:35 our mission statement? Where Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
What if we chose to become world changers—loving every person that we meEt the way Jesus did, living out the mission and heart of the Gospel in every interaction we have; changing the world through God’s amazing love—one life at a time? 
What if we really chose to be B.A.S.I.C.? 
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Through Christ

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

From the time that many of us are young, we have dreams for the future.

Maybe our dream is to write a book, or go to college, or enter a certain line of work. Maybe it’s to start a family, or become a missionary in a third world country. Likely, the details of our dreams and desires will look somewhat different for everyone, but there is one thing many of us struggle with, regardless of our many differences and strengths. Something that is a common fear amongst many of God’s children, and that can be nearly paralyzing—holding us back from our destiny and our calling in life.

And that thing is, the fear of failure. 

This can be especially highlighted for those who have graduated this year—either from high school or college, and who are faced with a new chapter in life. I remember my own high school graduation just a couple of years ago, and the feeling of being plagued with a sense of fear and anxiety as I stood on that stage to accept my diploma.

What did God have next for me? And what did life after high school look like?

Many of my friends who have graduated this year have expressed similar concerns. Some are still trying to decipher God’s calling post-college graduation, and some will be entering college campuses and universities for the very first time.

Even if we aren’t one of the lucky graduates of 2018, we likely still deal with some of this same stress and worry about the future. A lot of us have a dream for the destination, but don’t know how we’re going to get there. Some of us may feel hesitant to even try.

Nonetheless, while these are all very legitimate fears and concerns, there’s something very important that we can remember as Christians during times like this. Something that can carry us through any fear or doubt or worry that we face, and something big enough to carry us through any trial that we encounter.

We aren’t in this alone. 

We serve a God who painted the stars into the galaxy. Who said ‘Let there be light’ and there was. Who created the Heavens and the earth and who knows each of us by name—and who wants a personal and intimate relationship with all of us. The same God who tells us that “If we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains” (Matthew 17:20).

Here’s the thing guys, we are never alone in our hopes and dreams. We were never meant to try to do big things for God. We were meant to do things with God—as image bearers and beloved children of our Heavenly Father. And if we trust our dreams to God (assuming they’re His will), they will come to pass.

God wants to use each of us to play part of His larger story in humanity. No person is too small, and no dream is too big for the God of the galaxies. He has a history of using ordinary people for an extraordinary purpose. He transformed Shepherd boy into the king of a nation. He used a young girl from an ordinary family to give birth to the Savior of the world. He used a former murder to write most of the New Testament.

If God could use David, Mary, and Paul, than He can use you too.

As you go throughout this week, I want to encourage you to pray big for the things that you want to see come to pass in your life. Pray with confidence over your future and the future of those around you—believing wholeheartedly that God will answer your prayers in His timing. We were each made for something incredible, that we were meant to accomplish with and through Christ, who gives us strength.

All that we need is faith the size of mustard seed. 

 

A New Church And An Answered Prayer

Recently something pretty big has happened in my life that I feel compelled to share with you. Something exciting, that I feel is deserving of a post all its’ own. 

My family has found a new church. And I absolutely love it. 

My parents and I have tossed around the idea of trying another church for a little while now, but have never actually made the move to do it. We all really liked our home church, but had a trouble connecting, and it was so small that it was often hard to make friends. But two weeks ago, we actually did it. We boarded my dad’s car and headed to a new church—ironically, one that was only a couple of miles away from the church that I grew up in.

Naturally on the way there I felt a typical mix of excitement and nervousness that comes with trying a new church. Will I like it? Will it be any good? Will the people there be nice? Thankfully, once we actually got there, all of my fears were dispelled.

Within a couple of minutes of being there, I could tell that this church was vibrant and alive. That this was a church filled with love, sincerity, and faith. 

It was also a church that was really diverse—something I’ve rarely seen in most local congregations. This church was filled with people of every race and age—all coming together for a common purpose and faith; something that I’ve always seen the ‘Church‘ as being, but that I was seeing for the first time in a literal church building.

Within only a few short moments, I witnessed friends laughing and talking amongst themselves, was greeted by a lot of really nice people, and saw young people actually participating in the service—many who were up on stage in the band during worship or greeting newcomers at the front door.

Oddly enough, I wasn’t an anomaly as a young person in church—I was the norm, surrounded by both people my age and people older and younger than me. In this church, I witnessed solid friendships between members—some, who seemed to have little in common on the surface aside from a common faith. I saw the beauty of what the church is, and has always been, displayed right before my eyes. And I nearly lost it.

For years, I’ve dreamed of being part of a church like this. A church that lived out the meaning of the word ‘church family‘, and where anyone was immediately welcomed in. Where it didn’t matter if you were young or old, and where everyone felt equally at home. Where I could learn, and grow, and belong—along with other believers who would support me in my walk and who I would support in theirs.

Finding this church was an answer to prayer, and as I sat through that service, I felt closer to God than I had in a while. It was like I felt Him right there in the building—revealing to me that this was exactly where I was supposed to be right now.

I’m going to be honest, this past two years have been rough—probably more so than I’ve let on in this blog. I’ve struggled with major changes in my life and moments of heavy loneliness and anxiety. And at times, it only seemed to worsen in public settings. There have obviously been good points in my life as well, but the last couple of years out of high school have by no means been easy for me. Deep down, I’ve longed for something stable—a place where I could actually plant down roots, and connect with other people my age. Something like my new church—and by extension, new college Bible study, which I tried last week and absolutely loved. Something like a church family. 

Through all of this, God has reminded me of His faithfulness and love for His children. I’ve also been reminded that even during the times when I’ve felt the most lonely, I’ve never been alone. God has always been there for me and He’s always had a plan for my life. I was simply in a season of life—one that I feel is coming to an close even as I type this.

If any of you reading this are in a similar season of life, take heart. Life has a way of getting easier, and God has a bigger plan for your life than you can see right now.

Keep holding on and keep pressing on in your faith.

Who knows? You might find an unexpected blessing just around the corner.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17 

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A Prayer For Christmas

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This Christmas let us remember the reason for the season.

Let us, in the midst of the cooking, the wrapping, and the shopping, take some time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Let us reach out to others, remembering to put them before ourselves and helping those who are less fortunate.

Let us pray for the homeless, the veterans, those away from family, and all those who have situations much more difficult than our own.

Let us remember those closest to us, and spend some time with friends and loved ones as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Let us never take anything for granted but be thankful for what we do have, as we anticipate a new year filled with hope, resolutions, and promises.

Let us take some time to enjoy the little moments, those small nameless moments that get pushed aside for the glamor of Christmas, because someday those small moments won’t be so small anymore.

Let us remember those we miss, be thankful for those that we do have, and move forward with the hope and knowledge that someday we’ll be see our deceased loved ones once again.

Let us put aside our busyness, our stress, our fear, and our worries, remembering that in the midst of all of the stress of life, we have a Savior who understands, and a peace in the midst of chaos.

Let us deck the halls, enjoy our Christmas dinner, exchange gifts, and surround ourselves with love, because this season only comes once a year.

And, despite the fleetingness and busyness of this season, let us keep its spirit in our hearts, so that in some ways, this holiday may last all year long.

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And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, see, the angel of the Lord came on them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:8-14