Public Service Announcement: Singleness is not a Disease

Lately, I have been getting baraged by people wanting to talk about my relationship status. It started with my well-meaning Father. “Theresa, tell me what is going on in your life? Are you seeing anyone?” My response, “Nope.” His reply, “Well, are you even making an effort?” Then there was my client at work, a man in his mid to late fifties. “What is the deal? When are you going to find a husband?” How I would have liked to respond, “Sir. How is that any of your business?” Then there was one of the youth in our youth group. “Theresa, are you dating anyone?” “Nope.” “Is that because you don’t want to?” “Nope.” “Have you ever thought of signing up for Christian Mingle? Desperate times call for desperate measures.” I can go on with the stories, but I won’t.

I would just like to put it out there that singleness is not a disease. The way some people talk about being single in your twenties and the concerned looks I get from people make me want to say, “Look. I’m single. I’m not missing a limb or any vital organs.” I find this especially frustrating as a woman, because the advice I get so often from people is that I need to do something about my relationship status. I need to make an effort. I need to find my husband. I need to sign up for online dating or go to “desperate measures.” The truth is the only thing I feel compelled to do is to wait on the Lord and to put Jesus first in my life. I believe that as I pursue Jesus with my whole heart that He will lead the right man to step up to the plate in his perfect timing. Crazy concept, I know. The last thing I want to do is to do anything out of a sense of “desperation. ” When you know Jesus, feeling desperate doesn’t have to be a thing. He’s got this. You can relax.

Lately, Jesus has been speaking to me alot about who I am in Him. As a little girl, I wanted to be a princess. As an adult, I have to say, I still desire to be treated like a princess. Ladies, who doesn’t? Jesus has shown me that in His eyes a princess is what I am. I am a daughter of the one true King. In his blog, Brett Shoemaker writes a letter to his future wife. Below is an excerpt from this letter:

You’re a princess worth fighting for.  I said “princess.”  You know, the princess you always wanted to be as a little girl?  Yep, that’s you!  But here is the deal, if you are a princess, you have to act like a princess.  The story goes something like, “The princess waits high up in her castle waiting to be rescued by her Prince Charming (thats me).  This ‘prince’ has to cross the treacherous lands, fight all the battles, storm the castle, slay the dragon and THEN he gets the princess.”

It’s a pretty cool story, really.  Prince Charming doesn’t just walk up to the castle doors, spit a little game, and off they go to happy ever after.  You’re a PRINCESS.  You’re worthy of a fight.  If you give yourself to someone who isn’t willing to fight for you, he isn’t worthy to be with you.  Your prince charming isn’t going to fight to take your purity, he is going to fight to protect it.

I read this years ago and have saved it to this day, because it serves as a reminder of what I am after and what God desires for me. This is not to say that a future relationship will ever be a perfect fairy tale, but the concept of waiting for the man God has for me to pursue me and to be willing to fight for me is defintiely something I am holding on to.

Nowadays, I feel like so often women are expected to lay down their tiaras, to leave the castle and to become the huntress. We are fed messages that encourage us to do whatever it takes to snag a man and to do whatever is in our power to keep him. If we are single, it must be because we are not doing enough, putting ourselves out there or sending the right signals. I am so not about that life. In reality, I believe that God orchestrates the seasons of our lives. Seasons of singleness serve a purpose. A really good purpose at that! God uses singleness to help us to discover our identity in Him, to help us discover our personal giftings, passions and calling and to help us to mature into the men and women of God that He has called us to be. In our singleness, God teaches us valuable lessons that will carry over into the next season of our lives, through our relationship with Him. And let’s face it, we have freedom in our single lives that we simply will not have in our married lives. Freedom to chase our dreams. Freedom to travel. Freedom to spend our time doing what we enjoy. And most importantly, we have the freedom to make Jesus our singular focus. We can pursue Him without the pressures that come from caring for a spouse and children…and that is pretty special! As Paul writes in 1 Cor. 7:32-34, “An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided.”

I love what my best friend says when asked about her relationship status. She usually responds, “I’m just over here living my life like it’s golden.” To my fellow single ladies (and to you single guys as well), let’s do the same. Let’s live our lives like their golden. Singleness isn’t a disease. It’s an opportunity.

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On Relationships, Words and First Love

Recently, I read this in Jesus Calling, a devotional written by Sarah Young. “You cannot serve two masters. If I am truly Your Master, you will desire to please me above all others. If pleasing people is your goal, you will be enslaved to them. People can be harsh task masters when you give them this power over you. If I am the Master of your life, I will also be your first love.” It is human nature to look for love and acceptance from other people. We desire a feeling of connectedness with those that we are close to. We desire to love and to be loved in return.

The problem is that sometimes we exalt relationships with other people over our relationship with Christ. When this happens, we put ourselves in a compromising position. If we allow other people to become number one in our lives, we give them power over us. We become enslaved to their thoughts and opinions of us. We become reliant on their words spoken to us. This puts our feet on ground that is unsteady. It feels wonderful to be affirmed by someone you love. It feels great to receive encouragement and kind words from a loved one. It is awesome to feel valued by those we value. But what happens when what is spoken by our loved ones is not affirming? What happens when their words do not come across as encouraging and kind, but rather harsh and even mean? What happens when the words that are spoken do not make you feel valued or cared for? What then?

Even the people closest to us, will hurt us and let us down at times. As a matter of fact, I read somewhere that it is scientific fact that we hurt the ones we love the most, those that are closest to us. When this happens, it is confusing and feels out of the blue, but it can happen for a myriad of reasons. I find that most of the time people lash out because the pain they feel is so great that it spills out affecting those close by. When this happens, we may feel deeply hurt and betrayed, but we cannot allow it to shake us. We need to learn that our affirmation and value does not come from other people. It comes from Christ alone. If we stand in a place of confidence in our identity in Christ, we will be able to look at the brokenness of others with eyes of compassion, even when we become a casualty of their pain. We will be able to stand firm, with a strong sense of who we are, whether the words spoken to us bring life or cause a sting.

In the devotional quoted above, the writer points out that Jesus wants to be our first love. When we think of first loves, we might think of puppy love, butterflies and high school sweethearts. But when Jesus says that he wants to be our first love, I believe that he wants to be our foundation of love. He wants His love to come first in our lives, but He also wants to be the first one to show us what love is and what it looks like. He wants to be the one who forms our thoughts and opinions of love. Life circumstances and events can teach us many false lessons about love as we get older. Life will whisper many lies in our ears of what love does and acts like. For me, somewhere along the way, life taught me that love depletes you, drains you, and that it leaves you giving everything, but receiving little in return. God has shown me that was never his intention or design for me. He desires to show me that His love fills, replenishes and gives life. In 1 Corinthians 13, Jesus paints a picture for us of what His love looks like:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8).

I love this so much, because this not only tells us how Christ loves us, but it also tells us how we are to love others. This picture of true love painted for us by God Himself serves as a blueprint of how we are to love others in our lives. It is a baseline that can help us to identify what is acting as love in our lives and what is not and can help us to distinguish between healthy patterns of relationship versus unhealthy ones. Better yet, I love this because although we often see these versus quoted at weddings, this love is for the single person, as much as it is for the married couple. It is available to everyone and something that God wants us all to experience firsthand. When you have an encounter with this love, you walk away never the same. Your feet stand on steady ground. You become unshakeable.

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City of Hope: Musings on My Recent Trip to Colombia

All last week, I was away on a missions trip to Palmira, Colombia working at the Yo Soy el Camino Children’s home. The small team I traveled with and myself had an incredible time and I was so blessed to be able to be a part of the experience. As I was reflecting on my trip this morning, the song “City of Hope” by Amanda Cook came to mind. She sings, “Adoption is our heritage, chosen from the orphanage. The Father’s great inheritance, bestowed upon us all.” This line leads me to the following verses from Romans: “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children (Rom. 8:15-16).” The time we spent in Colombia became a tangible expression of this scriptural truth to me. This was my fourth time in Colombia at Yo Soy el Camino. There is something truly amazing about being able to share the heart of our heavenly Father with children who have been separated from their parents. The message we bring is one of hope, that Jesus has made it possible for us to be children of God. It is God’s desire for us to put our trust in Jesus, so that we might be adopted into His family.

This message though was not just for the children. It was one we sought to declare throughout the city. I believe as the song says that we have all been chosen from the orphanage. We were all separated from the Father at one time because of our sin. But the Father’s desire was to adopt us into His family, so we don’t ever have to live in fear again. So that we never have to feel abandoned or alone. Jesus made this adoption possible when he came to the world in human form and took the punishment for our sins upon himself on the cross. God desires to take an orphaned world and make us sons and daughters of God. This was a message we were able to share with over 800 people. We shared it in the streets. We shared it in local schools. We shared it with neighborhood kids.

The chorus of the song goes as follows:

“You are mending the broken-hearted. You are making all things new. You’re rebuilding out of the ruins. A city of hope with the ones you love.”

The Father uses us to be a part of his rebuilding plans. He uses us, those he loves, to help to mend broken hearts and to see desolate cities and lives be transformed into cities of hope. That is what this week was about to me. The incredible thing is that it is a road that goes both ways. As we bring hope to others, we grow in hope and faith as well. There was this moment on the trip that I won’t forget. We were coming back from an outing with the children on a bus we had rented. I was sitting by myself, resting my eyes and thinking about some life circumstances that weigh me down from time to time. All of a sudden a tiny hand slipped it’s way through the crack in the seat in front of me and held unto my hand as we continued our journey home. A sense of peace washed over me as the Holy Spirit gently reminded me once more of my purpose and why I am here. I am here to be an agent of hope to that little girl and many more like her. And in that moment, she was an agent of hope for me.

Perfect Love

Caring about people can be really tricky sometimes, because people are messy. People are imperfect. They mess up. They say and do things that hurt you sometimes. We say and do things that hurt other people. We let one another down and disappoint each other at times. It’s life.

Can I be real honest for a moment? I wish I could control people, in a good way, if that makes sense. I wish I could make decisions for people. There have been so many times in my life that people I care about have poured out their hearts to me, telling me about changes they were making, positive things they would start doing, negative things they would let go of. Unfortunately, time and time again, I have watched people fall into the same patterns and destructive behaviors. Each time it cuts into my heart like a knife. These scenarios have created in me the desire to do life for people. If only I could force someone into doing the right thing. If only I could make someone think or see things the way that I do.

I was reflecting on all of this earlier and I started thinking about where God comes into play in all of this. As I presented to the Lord my jumbled web of emotions and my bruised heart, I began to ponder His immense love for us. If anyone has the right to want to control people, it would be God. And He has the power to do so, if He wanted to! If I had that kind of power, I would have created a family of robots, because I don’t know that I would have it in me to watch my children walk away from me time and time again. But God doesn’t control us. He gives us free will. He does that because He loves us. He does that because He desires to give us the choice to love Him freely. I also believe He does this because He is more interested in our story of growth and our journey with Him than He is with immediate outcomes and forced obedience. He loves us so much that He allows us to fall. He allows us to experience brokenness. He allows us to experience pain, because He understands that all of these things strengthen us and draw us closer to Him. I can’t say that I have ever really thought about this before in this way, that it is actually God’s goodness that allows us to experience suffering.

Meditating on all of this, I heard these words echo in my mind, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” (John 4:18). I have alot to learn about fear, especially in my relationships with other people. There are times when other people’s actions make me fearful. I get fearful sometimes that people won’t change or that they will change for the worst. I get fearful that people will run away and leave. I get fearful that I will get hurt in the process. Anyone else ever feel this way? Lately, I have been learning to let people in despite my fears. The walls have been coming down and that is scary in and of itself. God reminds me in all of this that it will never be my love that changes people. It is His perfect love that brings redemption and transformation to broken hearts and lives. Even when people get it wrong and mess it up, He is there to pick them up and set their feet on solid ground. God wants me to let down the reigns of control. He wants me to trust Him with my loved ones. He wants me to allow His perfect love to expel every fear lurking in my heart. He wants me to know that His is a good Father. He wants me to know that He can be trusted, not only with my own life, but the lives of those I care about.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39)

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Where are you Hiding?

Over the past few days, I have been reflecting on how often in life we play hide and seek with God. A perfect example of this can be found in Genesis chapter 3. Most of you are familiar with the story. Adam and Eve are in the garden of Eden. They are given permission to eat any fruit they find in the garden except for the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The serpent tempts Eve. She bites first and Adam follows. Immediately, they are made aware of their nakedness and hide themselves from the presence of God.

I would venture to say that many of us do the same thing. Our sin at times tempts us to hide from the Lord. However, I also think we do alot of hiding from God when we are experiencing brokenness. Like Adam and Eve, in the face of hurt and pain, many of us take cover in the bushes, rather than being vulnerable with God and presenting to Him the pieces of our shattered hearts.

It may not obvious to us that we do this. Sometimes we do this in the most subtle ways. Like most people, I have memories of a few painful scenarios that really devastated me at the time. We all have recollection of a few rip-your-heart-out-of-your-chest moments. Those situations taught me some things both good and bad. The bad it taught me was how to hide. I learned how to build walls. I learned coping mechanisms and defense strategies that were designed to keep my heart protected. If I’m honest, I learned to expect to be hurt. If I could anticipate it coming, then maybe when the final blow was dealt, it wouldn’t hurt so bad. This is raw and real, but I’m sure I am not the only one who has struggled in this capacity.

God has been teaching me though that all the hiding and running is not the issue, the issue is where I am running to? Where do I go to hide? My favorite scripture verse highlights an important truth: “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). God is aware of our hurts and our brokenness and he wants to the one we run to. He wants to be our safety net and our hiding place. Only he can mend a heart that’s been broken.

We are all faced with situations that challenge our defenses. We all face moments in life that beckon us to bring our walls down. Those situations can be a combination of exhilarating and terrifying. Ask yourself today, when my defenses are threatened where do I hide? For everyone the answer could be different. Some may hide in the bottle or self-medicate. Some may hide from others, never allowing themselves to be vulnerable. Some may hide themselves in their careers or hobbies. But if we are ever to be fully whole, we must learn to hide ourselves in Christ Himself. In a sea of uncertainty and confusion, He is the Rock we can trust in. He is the healer of our hearts.

On Love and Suffering

This week a friend of mine helped me to shed light on the popular love passage found in 1 Corinthians 13. The familiar words of this passage are often recited at weddings:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8 NKJV)

What struck me as we discussed the above words was the opening phrase “love suffers long.” Some translations phrase it “love is patient,” but the idea of longsuffering in love conveyed in this passage sheds light on the heart of our Savior. Usually we do not think of love and suffering as going hand in hand. When we think of love we think about the “warm and fuzzies.” We think about first crushes and high school sweet hearts. We think about laughter and moments spent with friends and family.

When we read in 1 John 4:8 that God is love, we think much the same way. We think about joy and hope and triumph, along with a sense of being well-cared for. While all of these notions do certainly reflect God’s heart, we cannot deny that love involves suffering.
The definition of longsuffering is to have or show patience in spite of troubles. Jesus serves as the primary example of how love and suffering correlate. Jesus’ love for us led him to the cross. His concern for us led Him to make the painful sacrifice of giving up His earthly life. His care for us was so great that He allowed Himself to be beaten, whipped and crucified, in order that we can experience freedom and fullness of life.

The same is true of our love for one another. When you truly love someone, there is always pain involved. You let someone close enough to see the darkest parts of you. You allow someone to see your edges. You see theirs. When that person is broken, your heart breaks too. Their pain causes you pain. It’s real and it’s raw and it’s beautiful. When we allow ourselves to delve beneath the superficial levels of the “warm fuzzies” and show each other every corner and crevice of our hearts, we invite healing. We help to hold each other up. We support one another. With that comes the amazing realization that we are not alone.

Despite the pain and the trials that will inevitably come, love bears it all. Love chooses to believe that God is at work no matter how rough the season and knows a brighter day is coming. Our love for one another causes us to hold out hope, even as those we love struggle to find meaning in the midst of their brokenness. Love endures. It doesn’t give up. And the love that we are rooted in, the love that comes straight from our heavenly Father, it never fails.

On Knowing the Right Words, but Never Doing Anything in the Face of Poverty

 

For the past 9 months or so, I have been working as a case manager in the city of New Haven. My official title is “Employment Specialist,” my job is to work with individuals on welfare to help them to find work and to gain independence and self-suffiency. My job is often demanding and at times rewarding. I love to hear people’s stories. More than anything I want to give people a sense of hope that things can be better. They can be better.

At a job like mine, it is easy sometimes to lose focus. To lose sight of the bigger picture. With caseloads in the 150’s and numbers needing to be met, it is hard at times to narrow your focus to one individual, one broken person.

I have often heard it said that the church should be providing the response to the issue of poverty. I am familiar with passages such as Matthew 25:35-46 that exhort us to feed, clothe and provide shelter to the poor, reminding us that whatever we do for the least among us we are doing unto the Lord. But it wasn’t until recently that I truly understood the nature and extent of the church’s responsibility. You see, a government contracted agency like mine will never be able to cure the issue of poverty, joblessness, homelessness, etc. At best, we can try to put a bandaid on a wide gaping wound.

The church holds the key. His name is Jesus. Listen to what Paul writes about Jesus in 2 Corinthians 8:9: “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.” He became poor. He left heaven to take on the form of broken humanity. In Christ, lived “all the fullness of God in a human body” (Col. 2:9-10). And guess what? In us, lives all the fullness of Christ! In the same manner that God left heaven to dwell in a broken world, we are called to leave the bubbles of our church communities and the comfort of our homes to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the poor and destitute among us. It is time we started bringing the riches of the joy, love and hope of Jesus to the broken-hearted, the crushed and the poor of spirit.

Lately, I have been thinking that we have become too good at doing “church.” Those of us who grew up in the church know all to well how to do church culture. We know all about the latest Will Reagan album or Bethel hit. We faithfully attend small groups and Sunday services. We are big on doing “community” with other Christians. All these things are wonderful. But do we know the names of our neighbors? I have to say I don’t. Where are the broken people in our lives we are pouring into? Who are we sharing the Gospel with? Are we praying for those we come into contact with on a daily basis?

The government will never do a good job of taking care of the poor. It doesn’t hold the answer. The people I serve aren’t just lacking jobs. They are lacking peace. They are lacking love. They are lacking motivation. They are lacking answers. I can’t count the number of people that have emotional breakdowns in my office talking about their anxiety and depression. I can’t tell you the number of drug addicted people we serve. I have lost count of the number of people that have told me they had been a victim of domestic violence at one juncture in their life. The people I see don’t need a 30 minute meeting with an employment specialist, they need a life support. They need someone to meet them where they are at. They need someone to listen to their story. They need someone to care. They need someone who is willing to get involved in the messiness of their lives. They need someone who will leave their judgmental and condemning glances at the door. They not only need to be told that God loves them, they need to be shown that God loves them. They need to know that someone thinks their worthy of their time and that they are worthy of being invested in.

I am a firm believer that we should never compromise the truth of the Gospel or water down the message of Jesus. I think that sometimes we believe kind actions are enough and that if we can do enough nice things in the name of social justice that we are spreading the Gospel in our own way. This is not true. We need to be meeting the needs of others AND unwaveringly sharing the truth of God’s word. We cannot merely tell people that Jesus loves them, without loving people ourselves. I love the way the Message paraphrases the passage found in James 2:14-26, “Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?” It goes on to say, “I can see some saying, ‘Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.’ Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.”

We can’t separate our deeds from our faith, or our faith from our deeds. We are called to allow Christ to live through us. Church, let’s stop trusting in the government to do the work that was originally assigned to us. We have been contracted by God.

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On Being an Open Book

Have you ever had the experience of sharing something about yourself with someone who knew every thing you were going to say before you said it? Have you ever been approached by someone who you barely knew who told you a detail of your life that they couldn’t have known unless they heard it from someone else? Do you ever get the sense that others are paying attention to your life far more than they should? I’m just being real.

This is a big pet peeve of mine, but it shouldn’t be, because I am guilty of this too. In the age of social media, where everything is posted for everyone to see, it’s easy to keep up with what people are doing, even those whom you haven’t actually spoken to in years! Even without social media, there are always going to be those people that know the scoop and dish it to anyone within earshot. And as much as we say we don’t gossip in the church, we all do it from time to time without even realizing it. Why? Because we love a good story. My whole life I have always lived before an audience. No matter how hard I may try to conceal my business, eventually everyone finds out about it. I’m sure many of you can relate.

It’s annoying for sure but I am starting to come at this issue from a different angle. In 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (MSG), Paul writes, “Your lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ Himself wrote it- not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives-and we publish it.” Your lives are a letter that anyone can read….I am convicted by that.

Instead of spending my time worrying about who is talking about me and what they are saying, it is time for me to realize that my life is meant to be an open book! It is true that I live for an audience of One. I live for Jesus and not for people. My goal is to fix my gaze on Him and to follow where He leads. But it is also true that there will always be people watching my life. People will monitor my decisions. People will hear about things I say and I do. I am realizing that this gives me another avenue to glorify God that I didn’t realize I had. If I make sure that my decisions and my way of relating to people is God honoring than the bystanders and the onlookers are going to see Jesus lifted up in my life. When my life is discussed in my absence, it could be my testimony that they are sharing. The story of God’s goodness in my life can be shared with more people than I could have shared it with myself.

There needs to be a balance of living free from the concern of what people think of me, but also recognizing that anything I do or say may be repeated to someone else. I have to think to myself…are those things worth repeating? As we are encouraged in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.” My desire is to pour out my life in such a way that all who know me will know the goodnes, love and mercy of God.

People, it’s time to let our lights shine!

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Church, Are we Making an Impact?

At the beginning of this summer, I became part of a church plant.  Already, the process has been an amazing one.  I can feel the growing pains of transition, as God is calling each of us to step out in faith and to go to deeper levels with Him.  My favorite part of this whole process is that it enables us to dream.  As a team, we get to consider what we want our church culture to really look like.  What values will we stand for?  What will be our mission and our vision?  It’s an incredible honor to be here for the formative stages, to think that later on I’ll be able to say I was there when it all began.

As I have begun to think about all of this, I have considered how my concept of church has changed overtime, especially where it concerns impact.  I used to think that serving in ministry, being in church three or more times a week and filling up my calendar with church related functions and events meant I was making an impact.  Surely, I was doing my part if I was at church every time the doors were open.  But more and more I am realizing that staying within the four walls of the church was actually preventing me from making a bigger impact and seeing more people latch unto the message of the Gospel and begin walking in relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now don’t misunderstand me.  I do believe that having a church you attend and that being connected to a local body of believers is important.  We need to be able to lean and to rely on one another for support and encouragement.  Church gives us a local gathering place where we can worship God as a community and where we can pray and strategize about how we can see the Great Commission fulfilled in our neighborhoods.  I love church and I still serve in ministry.

But make no mistake about it, the people we are striving to reach are outside of the church.

The broken.  The used.  The depressed.  The prisoners in bondage.  The needy.  The desperate.  The hungry.  The anxious.  The ones looking for a way out.  The ones looking for freedom.  The ones looking for hope.  They reside beyond the perimeters of our neat and tidy church buildings.  While a few of them may trickle in here and there for the occasional Sunday service, the majority of them we will never meet unless we take time out of our busy church calendar and go and meet them where they are at.

I took an evangelism course a few years ago that rocked me to my core.  My evangelism professor walked us through the Bible and explained that we are all called to do the work of evangelism.  This challenged me.  Prior to this, I really believed that while some might be called to do evangelism, I was not.  I wasn’t good at it.  It made my heart race and my palms sweat to even think about sharing the Gospel with a total stranger.  I was more comfortable serving the youth group.  I was more comfortable in a prayer meeting.  I was more comfortable going to a worship night.  I thought let’s leave the evangelism stuff to the people who actually enjoy that sort of thing.  That class changed everything for me.  It finally hit me, what is my purpose?  Is it not to actually take part in the Great Commission?  Is it not to see the blind see and prisoners set free (Luke 4:18-19)?  Is it not the same mission as my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)?  Have the requirements for being a disciple changed?  Was it only for the 11 disciples that Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19)?” Where is the verse that tells us that fulfilling the Great Commission is only a commandment to the select few?  If we are to be imitators of Christ, shouldn’t we follow Jesus in His singular mission and purpose, to draw the lost and broken back into relationship with the Father?

I believe that the majority of the church believes the same things that I used to believe.  I am going to really step on some toes here, but I think that there is something fundamentally wrong with sitting in a pew every Sunday and never taking the truths of Gospel to the world outside of our churches.  I think there is something fundamentally wrong with standing on a platform week after week after week and yet never sitting down with an unbeliever to share the message of hope that we so frequently proclaim.  I have heard many say that the platform is their ministry, the Bible study is their ministry, the small group is their ministry.  I have heard many say that they are not called to the lost and that there ministry is to other believers. There are reasons why hundreds will gather for a worship night, but only 5 or 10 will show up for a prayer and evangelism outing.  I have been guility of this myself and to be honest it is an easy trap to fall into, but I am hard pressed to find Biblical support for this point of view.  These things may be your ministry, but they are not your mission field.

Church it is not up to our Pastors to reach our neighborhoods and our communities.  It’s up to us.  What kind of impact can we possibly be having if we are unwilling to even share the Gospel with our neighbors?  I am speaking as much to myself, as I am to anyone else.  My challenge to you is this: If you find yourself only surrounded by other Christians, change up your routine.  Find areas to get involved that will put you around people who need hope!  Be intentional about forming relationships with people who don’t look like you, act like you or believe like you.  Get to know them, hear their stories, build trust and share the hope, joy, light and love of Christ with them.  

I am no expert at this.  I have learned over time how to earn an A+ as a church kid.  It’s a role I know how to play well.  But I am just in the beginning stages of learning what it looks like to actually  take the Gospel to the streets, to the people that need it the most.  But I am ready to take on the adventure.  I cannot and will not continue to do church as usual any longer.  I’ll end with this:

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in Him?  And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him?  And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them?  And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?  That is why the scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news.” (Romans 10:14-15)

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Dear Diary: Musings on Love from Last Year

Recently, I acquired my own bedroom in the house that I am living in.  Yay!  As a result, I have been going through boxes and papers and miscellaneous items, trying to figure out which things I can keep and which things I can part ways with.

In my sorting, I came across an old pad of paper upon which I had written “Love vs. Fear.”  The words that followed minister to me today a year and change later.

6/17/2014

“We know how much God loves us and we put our trust in His love.  God is love and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect” (John 4:16-17) .  My deep desire is to experience love in this lifetime that would be rooted and centered in Jesus.  When you love another person, you are giving yourself to someone with flaws.  Someone who will let you down.  When you make God’s love the center of your relationship, you are putting your faith and your effort into something you can trust.  As we live, move and breathe in His love, making Him the center of everything, we grow more perfect in love for each other.

When your focus is His love, it leaves little room for fear.  His love must be your all consuming focus.  It must seep into and permeate every area of your life.  The scope of God’s love, the vastness of His power is far too great to fit into anyone compartment of your life.  Try to confine Him to one area of your heart and you will experience great discomfort.  He wants all of you!

I want this principle to guide my relationship with the man that I will eventually give my heart to.

I have several fears about relationships.  I have a fear of not being understood.  I want to spend my life sharing the heart of God with others…my family, friends, children, and the young people I serve in ministry.  I was wired for it.  Because of this I make alot of sacrifices.  I sacrifice my time and my finances to be a part of reaching a broken generation.  It’s an adventure that Iong to share with a partner.  But I need a man to understand that its an adventure that comes at a cost.

Teenagers are looking for hope, for something to believe in, for someone to believe in them.  They need us to put hands and feet to the message of the gospel.  More than hearing about God’s love, they need it modeled for them.  For this reason, they are always watching us, their leaders.  They want to know if the Gospel message is as important to us as we claim it is.  I make my decisions with the constant awareness that I am a role model to a generation.  You won’t find me going to bars or going out for happy hour, because I know it would be more harmful than it would be beneficial to the young people I am invested in.  I can’t be careless with my body or get physical in a dating relationship because it would mar my example.

I think about the young people in my life who have parents that have demonstrated that the bottle takes priority over them, whose mothers give their hearts and bodys to men who will never value them the way they deserve.  If I were to take to drinking recreationally and begin to compromise in the area of physical purity, I would lose any authority I have to speak into their lives.  That is something I can’t risk and I need my man to understand that.

I fear compromise.  I need my man to understand my values and my relationship with Jesus…and have one of His own.  As a couple, I want to encourage each other to change for the better and to grow in love with Jesus.  I have seen too many relationships where girls and guys have been persuaded to compromise deeply held convictions for the sake of “love” and “passion.”

I need to be fought for and I need to be pursued.  I need to know I’m beautiful and that I’m worth it.  But before you pursue me, I need for you to have already made Jesus your number one relentless pursuit.

Looking back on this a year later, these are still my convictions when it comes to relationships.  I would only add one thing:  

There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear…(1 John 4:18)

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