Friday, August 31, 2012

religion vs relationship

Words of Jesus: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord,Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" -Matthew 7:20-23

Religion (n): a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. 

Relationship (n): a connection, association, or involvement. connection between persons by blood. an emotional or other connection between people.

What do you think of when you hear the word Church?
Do you struggle with guilt?
Have fears about death?
Do you know your purpose in life?
What do you spend your free time doing?
What is the most important thing you own?
Are you joy-filled?
Do you do a lot of 'good things' and think that will get you into heaven? 

Are those questions difficult? easy? As you read Matthew 7:20-23, did you really read it? 

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord,Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven..."
NOT everyone will enter the Kingdom! You don't get into heaven by going to church, God's people are the Church. With Jesus' blood, your guilt is forgiven, not your own. If you have been saved, you have beaten death, for you are now living for Eternity. Your purpose becomes doing God's will for your life, it's individual, and yet working together as a Church toward a greater plan than you and I could never fully understand. 

"Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord did we not..."
MANY will say to me on that day, Lord I did this...I did that...for you. You can't do anything to get into heaven. Are you serving homeless food, did you put a dollar in the firefighter's bucket, or did you give of your time to help someone? Great! but still not good enough. Maybe you are rich; you can't take those things or that money or your house and buy your way into heaven. Without faith in Jesus' death and resurrection, there is no life in Heaven.

"Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"
THEN I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you'. Jesus wants a deep and personal relationship with each and everyone of His children. He wants us to communicate with Him(prayer) our desires and struggles. He also wants us to open up His Word and see what His wants and plans are. The Holy Spirit works in the lives of those who have given their life to Jesus to illuminate His Word and direct our every step. He wants to know each of us, personally.

Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ. A religion tells you that you have to do this(work) and this(rules) and this(good) in order to receive salvation. Christianity says, stop trying, allow Jesus Christ to use His power to accomplish everything through you, and ultimately through that relationship only will you receive true Salvation. If you have placed your life in Jesus' hands, then you are Saved.

Why do I write this out? Because this is the very reason why missionaries are sent around the world. To proclaim this good news! Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and having accepted the commission to Go and make disciples of all nations... I will take this Truth, that it is only through faith in Jesus Christ that one will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and share it with those who God is preparing at this very moment. Missionaries use the gifts God has given them to go and fill a need somewhere in the world. Opportunities arise as needs are met and relationships are built among people so that Jesus' light shines through and the Holy Spirit is able to change hearts.

I have been writing this post over the past few days and I have been really thinking about this verse, and how Jesus states so clearly that He wants to know us. Know us, not just of us, but really know our every thought, desire, motivation and goals. A relationship with Jesus enables us to have that communion with God Almighty, the one is was and is and is to come. A relationship, not some rules to follow, but a personal forever relationship with God.

Do you have that relationship with our Savior? If you don't, all you have to do is pray and ask God to forgive you of your sins and tell Him that you want a forever relationship with Him. The Bible says in Romans 10:9: If you confess with your mouth that, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 


  How grateful I am for the simple truth that you bore my sins on you as you died on the Cross and rose 3 days later to beat death and provide a way for me, a sinner, to enter Eternity with you. My relationship with you means everything to me and I thank you for the openness that I can have to share my deepest struggles and worries. I have peace knowing you hear and know everything that has happened, is happening and will happen in the future. As I walk each step, my prayer is that I will stay in sync with you as you have prepared a perfect plan for my life to be a small piece of the puzzle toward an even greater good. 

  I have such excitement in knowing that you have called me to Go and fulfill your commission to make disciples. So much of me just wants to get on a plane and go now but your timing is perfect and you have things that are part of your bigger plan that need to be accomplished here during this time. Help me to not overlook the mission field that is right in front of me. Help me to focus on what I need to be doing here, as well as take advantage of moments like this where I can focus on what the future holds. Jesus, it overwhelms me to think that you have chosen me to Go. Not everyone gets to and I count it an absolute privilege, as hard as it may be, to get the opportunity to take your love, power and Word to the people of Kenya. 

Use me Jesus as your hands' and feet so that your Kingdom is furthered and your Name is glorified. 
In your name I pray, 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pick me! Pick me!

...ends of the Earth.

Lately, I have been struggling with staying healthy. In my 24 years of life, I don't think my body has been this out of whack since Elementary school! First the flu and now some bout with food poisoning/some gross bug overtaking my body and not allowing me to leave my house, let alone the bathroom for long periods of time, and you and I are both left wondering... Is this what it is going to be like?

As I was sharing my symptoms with my Mom, I get this amazing response, "I guess it's getting you ready for what you might encounter next year." My thought process that followed..."I can totally handle this...think about the amazing leg muscles I'll have...oh and leg muscles will turn me into a Kenyan runner...and alas...I'll fit in!" My brain really gets messed up sometimes.

So even though I feel as though I'm coming out of this sickness period, you just never quite know what God is up to. That last statement really summarizes my life at the moment. I have been so overwhelmed with the multitude of documents that have been flowing into my inbox in the last week as well the checklist that still has nothing checked off, that I feel as though I'm really not sure what God is up to. In so many ways He has revealed so much already. I have an amazing organization working with me, placement has been decided: Kenya, and I have a checklist that takes me through landing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as well as directions that will get me to my living quarters. So with all this news and the abundance of information in front me, why do I feel as though I have no idea what God is up to?

One word: why.

Why am I going to Kenya?
Why am I afraid?
Why do I feel alone?
Why are finances scary?
Why, why, why???

The answer to all those questions lies in one statement, I have neglected to get down on my knees at the foot of the Cross, and share with Jesus all that has consumed me.

Jesus, thank you for who you are. Thank you that you are perfect, all-knowing, all-seeing, purposeful, and individual. You desire a relationship with me that is two-way. I must trust you with every part of my being, in every circumstance I face and with whatever feelings I'm feeling so that your plans and your desires are what come alive through me. Help me Jesus to open your Word and see just how amazing you are all over again. In Your name I pray, Amen.

In order to get an idea of where to start, I reopened Ian M. Hay's book, "Isaiah and the Great Commission: An Old Testament Study of New Testament Missions". I read chapter 5, Isaiah's concept of Mission, based on Isaiah 6:8. "Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" -Isaiah 6:8 The commission that Isaiah was given makes me think of my life verse, Matthew 28:19-20, Go and make disciples of all nations...and I will be with you always to the very end of the age. 

...end of the age. I decided to look at the back of my Bible and find other Scripture that had similar wordings and try to get a better understanding of what this statement might mean. (Now I am no bible theologian and I will never claim to be...unless I have a degree)

Psalm 19:4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
Isaiah 49:6 ...I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.
Isaiah 62:11 The LORD has made proclamation to the ends of the earth...

Filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, we have a light that is burning within us to share the gospel to the ends of the earth. I have a light that Jesus asks not be hidden but rather shine bright, proclaiming His name and His saving power to those around me. But not just to those around me, but to the world. Whom shall God send? Me of course. And I want to be able to exclaim like donkey from Shrek, "Pick me! Pick me!". I want to be persistent like donkey, "Please, I don't want to go back...please please!" He has a great attitude and a comical side, "I like that boulder, that is a nice boulder". Donkey has a willingness to stand up to Shrek, and I want to have that confidence.

As I think back up to the why's I listed, I can't help but think Donkey would have a different perspective. With the kind of excitement he used to exclaim, "Pick me! Pick me!" I want to be able to respond to each answer the same attitude. So let's try this...

Why am I going to Kenya? Because Jesus' heart is for all people, to the ends of the world. I get to go!
Why am I afraid? The enemy is battling, but Jesus' faithfulness and grace is stronger. I have Jesus on my side!
Why do I feel alone? A lie from the enemy. "...I am with you always..." -Matthew 28:20 He's always with me!
Why are finances scary? Jesus is our provider. All money belongs to Him anyway. This is Jesus' plan of course, not mine!
Why, why, why??? Because of Jesus!

I smile. Yes, I know there will be scary times ahead. But Jesus desires to bring all His people back to Him. He changes their hearts, He saves them, I get the amazing opportunity to only be he's hands and feet to the ends of the world.

"On the road again, I just can't wait to get on the road again..."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Proverbs 16:1

To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue (God must give the ability to articulate and accomplish those plans). -Proverbs 16:1

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight(surround) yourself in the Lord and he will give(put or set) you the desires of your heart. -Psalm 37:3-4

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. - Proverbs 16:3

In the moment when you become a Christian, a follower of Jesus, you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, you receive the gift of eternal life, and you also receive a changed heart. It's an amazing feeling when the Holy Spirit immediately washes you clean and you can sense the change within you. Your heart may have lusted over one thing or was jealous over another. As the sanctification process happens, the plans of our hearts are changed. Without Jesus, I would have no desire to go and share the love of the gospel to the people in Kenya.

Desires of my heart. Upon receiving Jesus as my Savior, my desires changed. I wanted to read my Bible, go to Church, fellowship with other believers and grow in my relationship with Jesus. My future plans also changed to want to do the will of God and fulfill the plans He has for my life which He knew before I was even thought of. "To man belongs the plans of the heart...". It's Jesus who puts the plans into the heart, it is up to me to follow those plans and be able to live out exactly what God has for me, all in His strength and direction.

My heart belongs to Jesus.
Jesus places His plans(desires) into my heart.
I pray and seek the desires of my heart, and ultimately they fall back on what God wants.

But I love this next part, Solomon says, "but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue".

Desires come from Jesus, I seek out the desires He placed upon my heart, and out comes plans from Jesus for my life. The next part involves more than just myself. It's super easy to think of becoming something, it's completely different to live that out. Which is why I love the second part of this verse. The words, yes I will go, come from Jesus. My humanity says to stay, stay here where it's safe and comfortable. But Jesus gives me His answer, go and do my will. His answer is Kenya. His answer is all that I need to live out the desires He placed within my heart when I accepted Him as my Savior. He is giving me the wisdom and direction to 'articulate and accomplish [His] plans'.

I've noticed over the past 2 weeks since getting my official assignment to Kenya, waves of fears. What's amazing is how quickly Jesus replaces those with His peace and comfort. Could those things still happen, yes, but I don't hesitate to not go because of them. A conversation this afternoon led me to this verse, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough worry of its own. (Matthew 6:34) Fears are going to appear, but the fruit of the Spirit helps us to focus our hearts back on Jesus and the ultimate plans He has. The Spirit also helps us to see in a way that is opposite to that of this world. Any new change in our life, good or bad, is going to come with unknowns. And with those unknowns come fear. When we take a step back and try to see the big picture, we realize whatever is ahead, God already knows.

Have you ever had a conversation where you leave and realize, "I have no idea what I just said but somehow the other person seemed encouraged"... It's moments like that where Jesus' spirit works in every part of who we are to 'articulate and accomplish [His] plans' no matter how big or small. And in this example, it's probable to say that we didn't specifically pray before hand for this encounter and often they happen without us even realizing it. And that's what I love about Proverbs 16:1. This proverb tell us that our words are articulated by Jesus and the plans that He puts in our hearts are accomplished through Him in us. It's all about Jesus and it's all for Jesus. May we face our fears, search out the desires of our hearts, and ultimately lean on Him to 'articulate and accomplish [His] plans'.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

God has a definite plan...

"Before life can be lived, before ministry can be done, the Holy Spirit needs to show up in your life. Because the Christian life is not the life you and I live for God, it's the life that God lives in us, it's the life that God lives through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. It's the life of Jesus taking up residence in our life." 

"God has a definite plan, He knows my future and your future, and it doesn't matter what sin you commit or others commit against you, He will use it for good." 

"You can't buy hope. The Bible says that God gives us faith, hope and love."

- Driscoll, Jesus Loves His Church series, sermon #1: Jesus Gives Life

Filling up of the soul with Jesus is one of the most energizing things a Christian can do. I love sleep. I love waking up feeling rested, I love waking up not to an alarm, I love waking up and getting to spend those first few minutes in prayer without having to rush to the shower. Am I a morning person? Yes, when I get to wake up on my own :) A human being needs sleep. We need rest. A Christian needs time with Jesus. We need His Word. We need His power. We need His love.

The last few days I have gotten to spend the moments resting, allowing my body to catch up on much needed R&R. Whether it be watching the Olympics, laying out in the pool reading a book, or spending time with friends, it has been so physically refreshing. And in these days, there is no time schedule, no routine, nothing that has to get done. I'm able to watch a sermon, read my Bible, and pray and journal and not feel rushed by the next thing on the to-do list. It is liberating actually.

And so I reflect on the time. I noted a couple quotes above by Mark Driscoll in his sermon that I watched called "Jesus Gives Life". It's the first sermon in his newest series and was very encouraging. Lately, I've been thinking over this whole missions thing. Weeks ago, I just wanted to know where I was going. I remember telling Jesus (and it's probably written somewhere in a blog) that if I just know where I'm going I will let Him deal with all the other worries. Well I know where I'm going, but now I want to know when, and I want to know more details, and I want to know what support raising both through prayer and finances is going to look like. And then Mark went on one of his amazing rants where he said, "God has a definite plan...". We are called to live by faith, we can look in the rear view mirror as he called it, and see how God pieced together the perfect plan so far, but the future is still in His hands. What curves, hills and valleys that are up ahead are no surprise to Jesus and He has it all mapped out for good.

I'm glad I can turn to Him in this struggle. And I want to write it out so that I can look back and see that this time of struggle can be used to see how clearly He is working in this moment, even though I can't see it right now. He is working out His plan, He is putting all the pieces together, and He is looking out for the good of His kingdom.

Jesus, my hope and my faith lie in your hands. For it is through those hands that I was created. And it is through those hands that mountains move so that your kingdom is furthered. Thank you Jesus for what You did for me and the redemption that I have in You because of your death and resurrection. Thank you Jesus for the work You have done in my life up to this point and I praise You for the work that will be done in the future. You, Jesus, are my hope. Thank you that I cannot find hope in anything but in You. Help me Jesus to place my faith and trust in You in every circumstance, with every twist and turn that is ahead, with each moment that You give me to honor and glorify Your name. Amen.
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