Posts tagged ‘Jesus’

June 12, 2013

A thousand times, “Yes.”

So much has gone on lately.  The ups and downs of life have been in full force and I find myself clinging to Jesus.  Holding onto Him with everything that I have because I know it’s the only safe place.  In the good and in the bad, Jesus is constant.  And, oh, how I need Him.

God is good.  He never fails.  He is sovereign.  These are the truths that I am coming to believe more fully than ever.  That everything is grace.  His ways are not my ways.  I can’t always understand.  But I will trust in the goodness of a Savior that died to give me life until the day I breathe my last on this earth… and I know that on that day I will enter into glory, eternally in the presence of the Almighty God, the One whose love is better than life.  In His presence is fullness of joy.

I’ve found myself staring difficult questions in the face lately.  Could I accept all that God gives?  Could I continue to praise Him in the face of loss, death, cancer, blindness?  Could I?

And the answer is, “Yes.”  A thousand times, “Yes.”

I’ve come to realize something: it always happens to someone else.  Until… it doesn’t.  Until it’s you.  Until you’re picking up the phone receiving horrible news.  Or you’re sitting in the doctor’s office hearing what you never imagined you’d hear.  And you cannot control it.  We don’t have control.

God does.

Now, I can’t get into all the theological implications of what that means in one post.  I know we live in a world saturated with sin.  A world that has so often run from God instead of to Him.  And God does not force us to worship Him.  He desires honest, heartfelt worship; not robotic religious “devotion”.

I know that Jesus promised us that we would have trouble in this world.  But he followed it up with some wonderful truth: “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  I know that He is no stranger to our trials, temptations and sufferings.  I know that He spoke of storms coming and that the house built on the sand fell, but that the house built upon rock was able to withstand the storms (Matthew 7:24-27).  And Jesus has proven to be my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.  I will not be greatly shaken.

Whatever the coming weeks, months and years bring, I will choose Jesus.  I will take heart, because He has overcome the world.  And I will fix my eyes upon Him, the Author and Finisher of my faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).  And in Him, and in the truth of His word, I will find hope, strength, rest, peace and joy.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever.  Amen. (Romans 11:36)

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June 10, 2013

What are we missing out on?

Lately I’ve noticed something in myself.  Some sin in my life.  It was something I swore that God had dealt with right out of the gate when I surrendered my life to Jesus.  But that old sin is poking and prodding and I’ve allowed it to creep up in some rather unexpected ways.  God has begun to convict me of it and to reveal how it has permeated so many areas of my life.  Through this process, I’ve come to more clearly see one of the reasons God deals with those sins in love– it has been robbing me of my joy in Him.

Have you ever come across a portion of scripture and been so filled with joy and gratitude that you just love Jesus all the more?  I love those moments.  His love, His worth, His power– they just become so clear that the only way to respond is with praise and adoration!

There are passages that I believe should be stirring that up in me.  The very word of God should be capturing my affections and drawing me nearer to Christ.  These passages should secure me in my identity in Jesus and remind me of the overwhelming, all-encompassing, mysterious love of God.  And yet… they don’t.  Instead I find myself nitpicking.  I’m trying to figure out what it “means”, when what it means is plain.  It just makes me uncomfortable.

You’d like an example, you say?  Let’s take a look at Ephesians 1:3-12:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.

There is so much there to rejoice in.  So what’s the problem, you ask?

The problem is that when I read this passage I see certain “buzz words”: chose (v.4) and predestined (vv.5,11).  While these certainly won’t be a problem for everyone, they have been for me.  Why?  Because immediately my mind thinks: Calvinism and/or Reformed Theology.  Having been heavily influenced by Arminians (see: free will) for much of my early Christian life, I have a tendency to respond poorly to these words instead of rejoicing in them as I ought.  But why? (Hint: here’s where my sin comes in)… I’m fearful of what others think of me.  I’m fearful of being caught up in the “us and them”.  I’m fearful to be labeled as something or someone without even fully knowing or understanding all that lies behind that label.

Labels can be dangerous.  Not just in the church, of course, but I would say especially in the church.  I’ve become so fearful (in my sinful desires to be accepted by my peers) of labels that I’ve disregarded beautiful truths in the Bible!  These aren’t extraneous words that someone added later, and they certainly aren’t heresy.  I may not fully grasp all of the implications behind those words but here is what I know:

I am chosen.  I am predestined.  I am adopted.  BY GOD!

Isn’t that incredible?  That is really good news.  And the craziest part?  Paul says in Ephesians 2:8 that I have been saved by grace through faith– not that of myself, but a gift from God.

When I fear the label and the potential alienation that comes with it, I miss out on joy.  I miss out on the gift.  I elevate the opinion of man and minimize the opinion and truth of God.

No matter where we stand on the spectrum from Calvinism to Arminianism and everywhere in between, we should never shrink back at the incredible truths in the word of God.  May scripture lead us to know God more fully and rejoice in who He is and all that He has done.

Christian, you are chosen, predestined, adopted.  And it is a gift of God, not of yourself.  Rejoice!

January 16, 2013

Words of life for an anxious heart like mine.

Feeling incredibly thankful this morning that I can take God at His word.  He is not a man that He should lie! (Numbers 23:19) The words and promises of this world will all pass away.  Some will be kept, yes, but many will be broken.  The only sure, steadfast words belong to God.  His word doesn’t change and will never pass away (Matthew 24:35).  When He says something, I can trust that it is true – regardless of how I may feel at the time.

Take Him at His word, anxious heart of mine.  Believe that what He has promised will come to pass.  Believe that you are accepted, having been adopted into the family of God in Jesus.  You are not illegitimate, but legitimate.  You are dearly loved.  You are cared for, right down to the very hairs on your head, of which God knows the number (Matthew 10:30, Luke 12:7).  Believe that all of your sins and shortcomings were absorbed by your Savior at Calvary, and that when you stand before the judgment seat of God, you are declared, “Not guilty!”  Believe that in Jesus you have an intercessor who will not allow you to stand condemned (Hebrews 7:25).  Believe that Jesus knows and sympathizes with your weaknesses and temptations (Hebrews 4:15).  Believe that through His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, you are able to obey Him.  Believe that obedience is good and right because He already loves you.  Believe that you were never a mistake or an “uh oh”, but that God knowingly and purposefully knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).  Believe that even if every earthly family member and friend were to leave you, Jesus would still be enough.  Believe that your identity is not wrapped up in your ability to be everyone’s best friend, but is found solely in Christ Jesus.  Believe that trouble will come, but more than that, believe that Jesus is with you when it does, and even more, believe that He has overcome the world–take heart! (John 16:33)  Believe that though you were dead in your sins, Jesus rescued you and made you alive together with Him (Colossians 2:13, Ephesians 2:1-5).  Believe that you are chosen, called out of darkness and into the light, to proclaim God’s excellencies (1 Peter 2:9).  Believe that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for you, so that where He is, you may be also (John 14:2-3).  Believe that your treasure is being stored up in heaven and not here on earth (Matthew 6:20).  Believe that generosity is much more freeing than greed.  Believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).  Believe that these present sufferings are not worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).  Don’t be ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of salvation to all who believe (Romans 1:16).  Believe that when you see Him, you will be as He is (1 John 3:2-3).  Believe that it is good to wait upon the Lord, and that His plans and timing are exceedingly and abundantly beyond all that you could even ask or imagine (Psalm 27:14, Ephesians 3:20).  Believe that He is concerned for the poor, the widow, and the orphan, and that He has called you to be His hands and feet (Isaiah 1:17).  Believe that discernment is good, and that upholding God’s truth is noble.  Believe that love covers a multitude of sins, and that without love, your gifts are rendered useless (1 Peter 4:8, 1 Corinthians 13).  Believe in Jesus.  Love Him.  Serve Him.  Preach Him.  Believe in His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and eventual return.  When you sin, repent quickly, and know that His blood is sufficient, His grace abounds.  Die to yourself that you might live for Him.  Believe that when you lose your life, you will find it (Matthew 16:25).  Believe that you can bring your anxious heart, with all its prayers and petitions, before a God who hears, and that in return, He will impart to you His perfect peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

Now rest, anxious heart.  Cease striving, and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

January 3, 2013

Our Hope.

I have not blogged in a long while.  That seems to always be the case, and then I show up with a random blog post every now and then.  What I’m about to share with you is something I wrote at the beginning of June and wasn’t sure I’d ever share.  Today is a heavy day, and I feel compelled to share.

For those of you who do not know, at the end of this April, Adam and I learned that we were going to be parents.  This is something that I had dreamed of for as long as I can remember.  We were both so thrilled and couldn’t keep it to ourselves.  We started telling our family immediately, and slowly began letting our friends in on it as well.  It was certainly an exciting time.

Just after Memorial Day weekend, we learned that I had miscarried.  In a lot of ways I’d braced myself for the worst news, and then it came.  No matter how much you brace yourself, it’s a blow you never want to have to take.

Through grieving the loss of our child, I have experienced the peace of God in a very real sense.  It wasn’t just an idea or something I talked about, it was my reality.  Friends and family who have also miscarried shared with me and it helped to feel less alone in my grief.  The following are words I wrote just a few days after my miscarriage, and words that I pray will bless and encourage whoever may be reading this post.

For those of you who are friends and family and who are learning about this through my blog post, I feel the need to apologize.  I’m sorry that this is the method through which you are finding out.  Honestly, it was hard for me at the time to even have to tell anyone, let alone have to tell people who hadn’t even known I was pregnant to begin with.  I so appreciate your being gracious to me in this, and I hope that you can understand.  Thank you in advance.

Today would have been my due date.  Instead of welcoming Baby Robles into the world, I will go back to a normal day at the office.  It is, as Shauna Niequist calls it in her memoir, Bittersweet, “the day of what might have been.”  And yet what is, is.  This is my life, and it is a gift, hard things and all.  God never promised that I would be exempt from suffering.  But (and what a “but” this is), He has promised to be with me always.  He has promised to never leave nor forsake me.  He is near to me now, and for that I am incredibly humbled and thankful.  Only Jesus.  He is our hope.

Dear Family and Friends,

I wanted to take a moment and thank you all for the incredible amount of love and support you have offered Adam and I in the past few days.  They have not been easy, and I’m still not sure how best to process the fact that we will no longer be welcoming our little one into the world at the beginning of the new year.  We were both more excited than we can say, and were so anxious to share that joy with each of you.

I don’t know why God allowed it to happen and I refuse to plague myself with the questions we will never know the answers to this side of heaven.  I don’t pretend to know the mind of God.  So during this time, we are instead choosing to meditate on what we know to be true of God.  We know that God is good, that He is a loving, gracious and unfailing Father.  We know that He promises to work all things together for good for those who love Him.  We know that He is able to do ALL things, including that which we deem impossible.  Yes, we do know that He had every ability needed to allow our baby to grow and be healthy and to come into this world as we expected.  But we also know that God, in his infinite wisdom and love, did not allow for that to happen.  We rejoice in the midst of our suffering because we trust that His plans for us are good, even when they are not easy.

Jesus is not far off.  He is with us.  And beyond that, He is no stranger to our suffering.  God’s word says that Jesus was a man of sorrows, well-acquainted with grief.  We believe and trust that as we grieve, He grieves with us.  I’m reminded of when Lazarus died and Jesus came to his friends who were mourning their dead brother.  The shortest (and one of the most profound) verses in the whole Bible: Jesus wept.  He wept then, and I believe He weeps with us now.  We live in a world that is broken, suffering the effects of sin and death.  But we know that sin and death will not reign forever.  We look forward to the day of Jesus’ return, when the wrongs are put right again, and we reign together with our glorious King.  I, for one, am comforted by the promise that He will wipe every tear from our eyes.  That’s good news for a crier like me!

I believe that God uses all things for our good and His glory.  I believe that, though I may not see it now, this time in our lives is no different.  Our prayer is that God would use this to draw us closer to Himself, to root us more deeply in the truth of His word, and to do the same for each of you.  If any one of us might taste again (or for the first time) the goodness of God in Jesus, then this time and our pain are not in vain.  Our ultimate joy, and the reason for our hope, is Jesus.  We continue to rejoice in Him, and invite you to do the same.

We love you all and pray God’s blessing over each of your lives.  May you know how deeply God has blessed us in you.

Grace and peace,
Brittany and Adam

October 6, 2011

It’s all about Jesus.

Seeing as I haven’t blogged in nearly two months (consistency has never been my strong suit with this blog!), I thought I’d share some thoughts from my journal on Philippians 3.  Philippians never ceases to challenge and encourage me.  And the third chapter (like all of the Bible), is so chock-full of good, deep stuff.

In verse three, Paul talks about putting “no confidence in the flesh”.  For Paul, it almost seemed right to put his confidence in the flesh (his works and accomplishments).  Often it looks right and noble, but when compared with the righteousness which comes through faith in Christ, it’s garbage.  As Isaiah said, our righteousness is filthy rags before a holy God (see Is. 64:6).

Where am I putting my confidence?  Is it in myself and my ability to follow the letter of the law and to be a “good person”?  Or is it all in Christ, whose righteousness is imparted to me by faith?  Do I believe that His reward is mine?  Do I believe that I am now righteous and blameless before the living God?  Do I rest knowing how God sees me (adopted and beloved) instead of “saving face” before man?

May I press on and press in to more deeply know Jesus and to more deeply understand who I am in Him.  May I come to realize even more the worthlessness of pursuing the law in the flesh, recognizing my inability and helplessness apart from Jesus, and in that may Christ become all the more beautiful, glorious and wonderful in my heart.  Jesus is a teacher, yes– but more than a teacher, He is a Savior.  He is my Rescuer and Deliverer.  No amount of teaching could change the condition of my soul.

Paul moves on to talk about forgetting what lies behind.  Not forgetting what God has done, but letting go of those past accomplishments and deeds.  No longer finding safety or hope in those things and instead looking ahead to JESUS.  Not dwelling on past wins or losses, failures, etc., but knowing that all that matters is Jesus.  Dwelling on anything else is futile.

If we get nothing else from Philippians, let alone all of scripture, let us know this one thing:  It’s all about Jesus.

July 15, 2011

A promise fulfilled.

But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.  For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

Matthew 10:19-20

Lately Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa (Acts 26) has been blowing my mind.  The boldness and courage Paul has in the face of those who had imprisoned him and could very well kill him is incredible.  Paul says he considers himself fortunate to stand trial.  Fortunate!  Can you imagine?  That boldness comes through the Holy Spirit.  It is not Paul speaking, but the LORD speaking through him.  And it’s both powerful and beautiful.

“In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today…”

Acts 26:2

What makes it even more beautiful to me is that Jesus promised the disciples testimonies such as this.  He promised them that when they were persecuted and imprisoned that He would give them the words to speak (Matt. 10:19-20; Luke 12:11-12, 21:12-15).  He specifically told them not to prepare beforehand but to trust that He would speak through them.  So when we come to Acts 26, we see Jesus fulfilling this promise in Paul’s life, and we can be sure He can and will do the same in our lives.

“So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; since they have known about me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.  And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve Godnight and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead?

So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them.  And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.

While so engaged as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from theJewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’

“So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem andthen throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death. So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; that the Christ was to suffer,and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

Acts 26:4-33

How often I rehearse what I can say in situations X and Y.  “Oh yeah, if they ask this, I’ll say this.  But if they ask this I’ll say this.”  That mental preparation is time wasted.  Not to say that you or I should not know our God and His word inside and out– we should!– but it is the Holy Spirit who speaks through us in those moments of questioning.  We might come up with some pretty clever responses ourselves, but it is God’s words that have power.  Just look at King Agrippa’s response:

Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”

Acts 26:28

May we consume His word daily, seek Him diligently in prayer, and then trust that in every moment the Holy Spirit will equip us with all that we need in order to make Him known and bring Him glory.  Jesus’ promises are true and trustworthy.  Just ask Paul!

May 4, 2011

In Light of the Resurrection

Here we are, a week and a half after Easter.  Another celebration of the resurrection has passed.  But is it really over?

Of course not.

As believers in Christ, we are called to live in light of the truth of the resurrection.  What does that mean?  What does it look like?

For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.

Romans 6:5-9

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Certainly if this is true, if Christ has conquered sin, death and the grave, our lives and our hearts should be radically changed.   We should not only die to the world but we should live to God.  Let’s not live lives categorized by what we aren’t or what we don’t do.  Let’s live lives that reveal the goodness and love of God, the forgiveness and redemption offered in Christ, and the transformative power of the Holy Spirt.

The power that conquered the grave dwells inside of us.  Let’s not take that truth lightly.  Let’s meditate on it, rejoice in it, and seek to bring Him glory through it.  Not only on Easter Sunday, but every day.

What does it mean for you to “live in light of the resurrection”?

Some verses to check out: Colossians 1:25-27; Romans 8:10-11, 14:7-9; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:29-30, 15:17-22; 1 John 4:13; Acts 2:24; 1 Peter 1:3

April 15, 2011

My time is not my own.

Yesterday Nicole of Modern Reject posted a blog about discipleship.  I’d recommend reading it as it’s thoughtfully written, based in scripture and about something we as the Church should really be engaging in.

For me, it brought up another topic of discussion: how and where and with whom we’re spending (or not spending) our time.

In case you’ve been out of the loop for the last 3 years, I live in New York City [the greatest city in the world].  Everyone is in a rush to get somewhere and meet somebody to do something very, very, very important, you know?  Us New Yorkers are important people.  We can’t be bothered to walk slowly, allow someone to go ahead of us, wait more than one minute for our Starbucks latte to be prepared… you know, that sort of thing.  It just inconveniences us.  We’re very important people doing very important things. </sarcasm>

In light of all of the above, often times our relationships just plain stink.  And I’m talking inside the church, as well.  We’ll hang out all day Sunday, sure… but during the week we’re far too busy and caught up in our own lives and issues to truly sacrifice of our time and invest in each other’s lives.

I’m guilty as charged.  The work day is done and I want to come home and relax.  Some nights my phone will ring and I’ll ignore it.  You know, because I’m too “busy”… watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune (I wish I were kidding about this…)  After all, I deserve some time alone to not have to think about or deal with anything or anyone.  (Did I mention that sometimes I just don’t have time to read my Bible and pray?  I know, I’m just so busy with Facebook and Twitter.  Yikes.)

I don’t want to be honest with you guys about this because I’m not particularly proud of it.  Nonetheless, God is gracious and He’s teaching me.  Some days I’m a pretty teachable student, other days I make every excuse in the book and give Him a hard time.  But He continues to teach me, and I pray that I listen and learn and grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Some of you might be thinking, What’s the big deal?

For me, the big deal is this: My life is not my own.  My time, my money, my resources… none of it belongs to me.  They’re all gifts from God.  And Jesus calls me to lose my life that I might find it (Matt. 16:25).  The Bible calls me to live a life of radical generosity and love and self-sacrifice.  The gospel frees me from my sense of entitlement because it declares that everything I have is a result of grace.  If I got what I deserved, I’d be dead.  So if none of this belongs to me (time included), why do I cling to it?

As believers in Jesus, we’re called to live counter-culturally.  The world says we deserve “me time”.  Our natural inclination is to be self-serving in our friendships.  As Americans, we live in a culture that is incredibly individualistic.  We’re self-centered.

Paul challenges our natural inclination to self-centeredness in Philippians 2 by pointing us to Christ’s example:

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:1-8 (NASB)

Notice that Paul doesn’t give us a list saying, “Do this, but don’t do this.”  Rather, Paul says, “Look at Jesus.”  As I grow closer to Jesus and get to know Him better, I am challenged by His love, humility and sacrifice.  I desire to live a life that reflects who He is and what He has done.  His love is challenging me and changing me.

Relationships that are real and powerful and meaningful require our time.  They require us to give of ourselves.  We have to be willing to say, “You’re more important to me than I am to myself.”  Tim Chaddick (Pastor of Reality LA) put it this way in one of his sermons: “Love that doesn’t cost anything isn’t worth anything.”  We can merely give people our time when it’s convenient and easy for us, but it will not produce anything meaningful.  We will remain acquaintances, saying hello to each other at church or Bible study, occasionally grabbing coffee or lunch afterwards.  But what about when life gets tough?  Will we know that there are people we can call that love us, listen to us, and pray for us?  Or will we scroll through our cell phone contacts realizing that we’ve never formed friendships deep enough to feel that we can “inconvenience” one another?

Part of me wonders if there’s an element of fear.  True community calls us to transparency, and transparency can be scary.  However, if we’re in a community of people who believe in the gospel, grace abounds.  Avoiding transparency is never the answer.  I’d argue it breeds more fear, anxiety and shame because there’s always the risk of being “found out”.  Transparency aside, what if someone is struggling and we don’t know what to say?  What if our words fall short?  Friends, our words will fall short.  Our goal is not to fix one another and solve all of life’s problems.  Our goal is to build a community where Jesus is exalted, where prayer is integral, where ears and hearts are open and grace is shown.  Our hope is in Jesus.  Our salvation is in Jesus.  Therefore, the goal is Jesus.  We need to come alongside one another and say, “Look at the cross.  Look at Jesus.  Life is hard, but He is better and He is worth it.”

It’s funny, it seems to be that the solution to the issue of community is the same as the goal:  It’s Jesus.  As we draw near to Him, we’ll be compelled to serve others, love others and invest in others, and as we spend that time in community, we’ll encourage one another to draw near to Him.

Then again, I suppose it should come as no surprise that Jesus is the center of it all.  He is everything.  Isn’t that what this Christianity thing is all about anyway?

There’s a possibility of a “Part 2” of this post based upon your thoughts, ideas, concerns, struggles, questions, objections, etc… let’s get this conversation started:

In what areas do you struggle to build community?  What are some of the excuses you’ve either heard or made for yourself?  What are some practical ways we can encourage more selfless community?  Have you ever been blessed by someone who clearly sacrificed much of their time to invest in your life?  Let’s talk community!

April 4, 2011

Let the morning bring word of Your unfailing love.

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”

1 Corinthians 1:30-31

Yesterday morning I found myself once again overwhelmed by the fact that God loves me no matter how I “perform” on a given day.

I think for many of us, we have, at some point or another in our lives, been surrounded by people who are never quite impressed with what we’ve done.  We are constantly pushed to do better and to be better.  (Or maybe this is just me and I’m projecting it on all of you… Ha!)

Christianity is not a performance-based religion.  I don’t care what anybody tells you.  God does not say, “Do better and be better and then I’ll love you.”  Now here’s the thing: He probably should do that.  Face it, we aren’t all that good and moral.  We couldn’t uphold the law in full.  And even when we outwardly perform, the truth is that inwardly we’re full of filth.  We carry envy, jealousy, bitterness, hatred… all sorts of ugly junk resides in our hearts.

So what strikes me is this:  God does not shake His head at me and say, “Well, Brittany, today you weren’t so good.  Do better and try harder tomorrow, please.”

Instead, He sees me and looks upon me with pure, perfect love.  Not because of what I’ve done, but because of what Jesus has done on my behalf.  Jesus’ record is perfect.  He IS better and He DID better because I wasn’t capable.  Not only did He bear all my shortcomings and wrongdoings on the cross, but He also imparts to me His perfect righteousness.

And therefore God, seeing me as He sees His Son, loves me perfectly.  And nothing I do or say today, no matter if I perform horribly or if I perform well, can change His unfailing love.  And yet, by His grace and through the power of His Holy Spirit, He is sanctifying me.  He is daily conforming me to the image of His Son.

And if that can’t compel me to love and worship Him, I’m just not sure what can.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

Psalm 143:8

March 29, 2011

Follow You.

“God isn’t looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him.”

— Hudson Taylor

This song came to mind (seemingly out of nowhere) last week as I was sitting at my desk.

Lately it seems I’m living out the struggle to remember Ethiopia.  It’s something I need to fight to hold onto, to actively pursue.  My flesh wants comfort.  My flesh would rather forget.  Why?  Because it’s easier.  But it’s not the better way.  The easy way is rarely the better way.  Jesus told us that.

The chorus of this song brings me back to Mother Teresa’s in Addis Ababa.  It brings me back to a place so overwhelming, so heart-wrenching, so consuming… There’s a lump in my throat just thinking about it.  The chorus brings me back to that place and back to those challenging moments.  Every selfish part of me wanted to bolt as quickly as I could.   Rooms and walkways were full of sick and dying people.  And children.

If I’m being honest, emotionally speaking, I did bolt.  I checked out.   I was afraid.  As I wrote in an earlier blog post (“Journal Excerpts“), I knew that those were the people Jesus surrounded Himself with, and yet I felt like I could barely look at them.  Yes, physically I stayed, but emotionally?  I couldn’t have run faster.

I’m certain that I will encounter moments like that again and be given the opportunity to stay and engage.  First of all, because God is gracious, and I’m so thankful for that.  Second of all, because this is life.  It will inevitably get difficult and be painful at times.

Will I follow Jesus into those hard places?  Will I give myself to Him fully, knowing that it will not always be neat and easy?  Will I roll up my sleeves, trust in His all-sufficient grace, and step into the mess that is life?

I’m more aware than ever that apart from His grace, I’m absolutely incapable.  I just can’t do it.  But He can.  I want to follow Him there.  And by His grace, I will.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Matthew 16:24-25