You were never meant to do it alone: The importance of community

“Community” has become quite the buzzword in today’s Christian circles.  We talk about the importance of living in community and doing life together.  I think what it all boils down to is family.  As children of God, we were designed to live as members of one big family.  We all need one another.  Although you can certainly try to go it alone, it’s alot like trying to climb an icy mountain uphill.  It’s difficult to gain traction without the support of others in your life who can reach out a hand when you feel like your about to slip.

1.  Community Provides Accountability

We all struggle.  Doing the right thing is not always easy.  I love having people in my life that I can trust enough to be vulnerable with and share with them what I am going through.  Knowing that somebody is cheering you on and checking in on you makes doing the right thing a whole lot easier.  It’s so important to have people in your life who tell you what you need to hear and not necessarily what you want to hear, because there is growth in that and there is healing in that.  These are the kinds of relationships that are transformative because they push you and prod you to become the man or the woman that God has designed you to be.  Find friends like this and be that friend for others.

2. Community Provides Support

In a healthy community of believers, there is safety.  We all have doubts, questions, insecurities and fears.  Our minds can be a scary place at times!  It is so healthy to express even our darkest thoughts to those who can shed some light and encourage us to step away from negative thinking.  When we leave things unexpressed, we can become consumed by uncertainty and discouragement and our fears tend to grow.  Letting others in allows us to gain a new perspective on our circumstances.  Think about it.  Aren’t we always better at helping somebody out with their problems than we are at dealing with our own?  It’s because we were designed to be a support system for one another and to help others to see the truth, when they become blinded by challenging circumstances.

3.  Community Provides a Sense of Belonging

Lastly, community creates a sense of belonging.  If we are doing community right, others should feel acceptance and a freedom to blossom as the unique individuals that God has called them to be.  Community doesn’t mean that we all need to look, think, act and speak alike.  Within community, we should be able to help others identify what makes them an individual.  We should help others to see where God has gifted them and encourage them to grow in the expression of those gifts.  In that type of environment, people feel like they belong and that they are loved for who they are.

In a family, through accountability, support and creating a sense of belonging, we can encourage one another to be more fully the person that God has designed us to be.  We all have the tendency to forget from time to time what we were made for and the purpose we have been called to.  Living as a part of a family means you always have someone in your corner who will remind you of who you really are when you start to forget.

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:4-5

 

 

The Lord my Rock

Psalm 18:2 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.  He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.

We live in a world where everything changes.  We can’t rely on anything to stay the same.  People move in and out of our lives.  Relationships change.  Jobs change.  Living situations change.  Locations change.  Technology changes.  Everything changes.

In the upheaval and chaos of living in an ever evolving society, it’s easy to feel lost in the scramble.  It’s easy to feel unsteady and unsure, uncertain about what the future holds.

The Lord never changes.  His nature doesn’t change.  His goodness doesn’t change.  His faithfulness towards you never changes.  His love and concern for you doesn’t waver.  He is not a God that changes His mind and His promises stand true, despite the test of time.

He is our Rock.  Through all that I have faced, He has remained constant.  I am in love with the fact that I can call Him my place of safety.  Isn’t that what we are all looking for?  Someplace where we can be safe.  Someone we can be honest with about what were going through and where we are struggling.  Somewhere where we can feel free to be ourselves without the pressure of pleasing people.  He tells us that He is that place of safety.

The most amazing part of all, is that the God who never changes, changes me.

By the Word of the Lord

In Christian circles, we talk about “The Word” (the Bible) alot.  Truthfully, I think we talk about it more than we read it and certainly much more than we actually apply it.  We can all be guilty of that at times.  I know I have been.  But over the last year or two, more than at any other point in my relationship with God, the power of The Word has struck me in a profound way.

There are so many facets to it.  It’s incredible.

Jesus is The Word with skin.  He embodies the Word of God and personifies it.  When He showed up on the scene, the Word became flesh and made itself at home with us.  Because we have this flesh and blood representation of the Word, we are able to know what the Father is like (John 1:14).

The Bible is The Word on paper.  It’s the heart of God written in a letter to us.  It’s the place we can go to read up on who we are, who He is and how much He loves us.  I don’t think we realize how blessed we are to have The Word right at our fingertips.  We have Bibles collecting dust on the shelves.  We have Bible apps connected right to our phones and tablets.  We are able to google search scripture.  It is readily available to us and we don’t realize how precious it really is.  We don’t realize that in other parts of the world, people risk their lives just to carry a fraction of it.  Some are tortured and even murdered if that sacred Word is even found to be in their possession.

Here are a just a few examples of the power the Word has in our lives.

1.  The Word Sifts Our Motives and Our Thoughts

We are told in Hebrews 4:12 that the word “discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Humans are complex.  Half the time I don’t even understand the things that I am thinking or feeling, but the Word provides us with a litmus test that allows to discern whether a particular thought or feeling is profitable or not.  By the Word, we can tell…is this thing I’m believing a lie or the truth?  Are my motives centered in bolstering my own reputation and serving my own agenda or are they rooted in a sincere desire to glorify God and to do His will?

2. It Equips Us

The Word equips us and trains us for every good thing that God has planned for us to do (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  The Word teaches us everything we need to know about the character of God that will help us to maintain our confidence and hopeful expectation when those rough patches hit.  It has the ability to correct our wrong thinking and attitudes.  As we study God’s Word, we begin to resemble Jesus more and more in our character and in our conduct.

3.  It Reveals God to Ordinary Humans

This one is my personal favorite.  Through the Word, an ordinary girl like me can begin to understand an infinite and omnipotent God.  By His Word, the very God that created me has allowed me to see into His heart.  Setting aside time to read the Word every day, has provoked in me a greater passion in my relationship with Christ than I ever had before.  The more I learn about Him, the more I love Him and the more I love Him, the more I desire to serve Him with every fiber of my being.

Consider this for a moment.  It says in Psalm 33:6, “By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth.”  If the universe was spoken into existence by the Word of God, what is His word capable of creating in you?  What is His Word capable of speaking into existence in your life?

The Stuff Worth Holding Onto

Yesterday, my post was titled “The Art of Letting Go.”  Letting go is easier when we can identify the things that we can always hold onto.  There’s a sense of comfort in that.  So, here we go:

1.  Hold on to Jesus

This seems like a given and we talk about it alot in that Sunday School sense that Jesus is always the right answer.  This answer doesn’t always provide alot of comfort though when we are faced with troubled times.  We want something that we can see, feel and touch to comfort ourselves with.  I want you to open your mind to the reality that Jesus is more tangible than we think.  He’s closer to us than the skin on our bones and He is always eager to respond to us.  When we slow down and take a moment to make ourselves aware of the reality of His presence with us, we can experience His peace and His joy, even in the midst of the most frustrating circumstances.

I am no stranger to frustration.  I know what it is like to feel alone and misunderstood.  But there is nothing quite like curling up under my covers at the end of a hard day and knowing that Jesus sees all that I am going through and is right there with me.  We can hold onto Him.

2.  Hold on to Hope

I write about hope alot.  I think it’s because I know what hope means to me.  Without it, I would have given up along time ago.  God can change anything in an instant.  I’m convinced that He delays in providing immediate answers because it’s in those long seasons of waiting that He forges our character.  It is through the trials that He prepares us for the coming change.  He always has good in store for you and He is an excellent reason to have hope.  The God that created the universe is always thinking about you and praying for you.  He’s got your back and He sees things that you don’t.  Hold on to hope.

3.  Hold on to Joy

I think holding on to hope and holding on to joy go pretty much hand in hand.  If we know we have a reason to hope, then we always have something to be joyful about.   Joy comes with having a thankful heart.  Sometimes you may have to look a little more closely than others, but there is always something to be thankful for.

In the midst of uncertainty and pain, we can hold on to faith.  We can believe for something better.  Always remember that even when it seems like everything is falling apart, God is holding you together.

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.” Hebrews 10:23

The Art of Letting Go

Man.  This is a tough one.  No one likes letting go, but sometimes it’s our only option.  In a world that always tells us to just hold on, sometimes letting go is the right thing to do.  Sometimes it takes more strength to let go than it does to hold on.  Sometimes it’s the only thing that can liberate us, so we can finally experience true freedom.

In my short 26 years of life, here are some things that I have found necessary to let go of.

1. Negativity

Let go of your bad attitude.  No matter how bad things look, try to keep a positive outlook.  The Romans 8:28 principle always helps me out here.  God is always working things out for your good, even in the midst of circumstances that look terrible.  Keep looking for the silver lining and learn to count your blessings.  If you don’t think you have anything to be thankful for, you woke up today.  You’re still alive and kicking.  That’s a good place to start.

2. People

This one kills me.  KILLS ME.  I am somewhat introverted.  Most people don’t realize that about me, because I put on a good show.  But I’m the type of girl that likes to stick close to a few good friends.  Put me in a crowd and I squirm.  When it comes to the few good friends I have, I love hard.  I invest.  I’m in it to win it.  When people cut out, move away or for whatever reason grow distant, it crushes me.  I’m just being honest.  But I’m learning that as much as I would like to keep people, I can’t.  Some people are with you for only a season and some are with you forever.  Only time can tell you which people will fall into what category.  It’s bittersweet really.  As much as we don’t like to let people go, doing so opens you up to the opportunity to invest in more people.  Think about it.  If we never had to let anyone go, we would never know the joy of letting in somebody new.  Hold on to the people you have for the season you have them for.  When the season is over, be joyful that it happened.  Be joyful for what you learned and look forward to the new people God is about to bless you with.

3. The Need to Control

The sooner we get this one down the happier we will be.  I have dealt with the harsh reality over and over again…I can’t control anything or anybody.  As much as I try to plan ahead, I never will know what is going to happen from one day to the next.  I have made peace with that.  I know the God who is in control.  I know He loves me and that He ALWAYS has my back.

4.  My Plans

Lastly, I need to let go of my plans.  I need to let go of my ideas about how things should look or how they should go.  I’ve learned to hold everything with an open hand.  Do I have dreams?  Sure thing.  But there is one dream in my heart that trumps them all and that is that I would live a life that follows the plans that God has laid out for me.  I’m honest with the Lord about my thoughts and my feelings about things.  I know what I want and I communicate it to Him.  But in the same breath that I communicate my own desires, I then express my desire to want for myself what He wants for me.  I let him know “If any of this doesn’t match up with what you desire for me Jesus, fix my heart until it’s one with yours.  I know that at the end of the day, you know me far better than I know myself and you know what’s best for me.”  Recognize that God’s plans for you are bigger and better than anything that you could dream up yourself.

We don’t like to let go because it’s scary.  There is fear in the unknown.  But it is necessary, because letting go allows us to hold on to something better.

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:13-14

You are New

You are new.  Your past?  It was erased the moment you chose to open up your heart to Jesus and to let Him in.  Don’t look back.  The past mistakes, the sin, the guilt and the shame has been washed away by His grace (2 Cor. 5:17).  He has given you a new heart (Ezek. 11:19-20).

You may not feel that you are new.  You may still feel entrapped by the old.  But trust me, when you were adopted into the family of God, the Father no longer saw you in light of the old stuff.  He knows who you really are.  He knows your true identity.  Each step that you take He is leading you further and further into the purposes that He has for you.  As you look to Him each day, you are becoming more of who you really are.  Don’t sweat it when you make mistakes.  God’s opinion of you doesn’t stem from the day to day ups and downs of this life.  He sees you in light of an eternity spent with Him.  

Things sometimes feel stagnant.  You feel stuck.  And everything seems like the same old story.  I get that.  But I’m aware of the fact that God is doing new things in your life and in my life every day.  Each day carries with it the potential for new.  Each day we have the opportunity to learn something new about God, ourselves and about life.  Each day we have the chance to grow in new ways, to meet someone new and to experience something different.  Most of all, I have learned that even in the midst of  situations that feel stuck, God is always working something new in your heart. Look for it and expect it (Isa. 43:18-19).

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.(2 Cor. 3:8)

There is Always a Silver Lining

Some of you reading this blog may know me, some of you may not.  I tend to be a pretty positive and cheery person.  I think some people see my positivity and think it’s because I have never been through anything.  That’s not true.  I have many horror stories I could tell.  I’ve walked through abuse, dysfunction, alcoholism and drug addiction in my family…there was a time I was pushed to the point of a mental breakdown that almost took me out for the count.

So my positive attitude is not the result of having a problem free life.  There is no such thing as a problem free life.  We all have walked through our own storms.

But here’s the thing.  Through everything I have walked through, I have always clung to Jesus.  Although I have been angry, disappointed, confused and let down, I have chosen to continue to trust in the Lord.  Sometimes it took me longer than others, but I have always chosen to believe that in every situation, there is a silver lining.

The silver lining is the goodness of God.

Looking back on everything that I have went through, I have realized that even in the most difficult situations, God has always taken care of me.  And not only has He taken care of me, He has spoiled me!  The Lord has held me by the hand, leading me and guiding me.  He has provided for my every need.  He has always made sure that the right people have come into my life at just the right moment to provide support, right in the time that I needed it.  And more than anything, He has turned every horror story on it’s head and transformed it into an amazing story of His love and goodness put on the most beautiful display in my life.

I have so much confidence and expectation in these silver lining moments that no matter the situation, big or small, I know what the result will be.  I will be made stronger.  I will know a greater degree of His love and His joy.  Although the moment may be difficult, I know that my Father in Heaven is taking good care of me and on the other side of it, I am going to come out just fine…more than fine.

My purpose in writing this is to let you know that no matter where you are at in life, God is there.  Train your eyes to look for the silver lining.

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13

Radiate Part Two: How to be a Flashlight in the Dark

In Ephesians 4:17-32, we find a section of scripture that in some translations has been titled “Living as Children of Light.”  I have included it below in the message version, so you can briefly look over it:

And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.  But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.  What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.  Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life. Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.  Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.  Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.  Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Yesterday I wrote a post entitled “Radiate” it is all about how we were designed to be a reflection of God’s light in a dark world.  This post is more of a practical how-to on the same subject straight from Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church.  So…how do we shine?

1. Don’t be ignorant

Ignorance is something the world is full of, even in the church.  Ignorance is the result of a lack of knowledge.  I am convinced that many Christians are ignorant of God’s promises towards them, the authority He has given them and the extent of His love for them.  I believe many of us are even fuzzy on what it is we say we believe.  When we are ignorant of God’s truth, we find ourselves vulnerable and many times we end up just “going along with the crowd.” God has given us His Word, the Bible, so we never have to fumble around in the dark.  Read it!

2.  Don’t look back

The past is the past.  Once you opened up your heart to Christ, you became a new person and He began the process of making you more like Him.  He doesn’t see you in light of your past failures and you shouldn’t either.

3.  Tell the truth

Tell  the truth to others and tell the truth to yourself.  Don’t speak deception and don’t accept deception as your reality.  This world is full of lies and the enemy is always devising ways to deceive you and to lead you away from the truth.  Know the truth of God (refer to #1) and think it.  Speak it.  Live it.

4.  Get over it

We all have the right to our emotions and we get angry from time to time.  That’s cool, just don’t stay that way.  It’s unfun and unhealthy.  God wants us to learn to practice the art of forgiveness (jump down to number 7).

5. Stop stealing

Do you steal?  Stop it.  Do you find yourself consumed with jealousy over what someone else has?  Stop that also.  God has greatly blessed you.  Spend some time figuring out the unique ways that God has blessed you and be thankful.

6. Watch your mouth

This is one area that we all struggle with.  In order to radiate God’s light, we need to watch the words that come out of our mouths.  Are we cutting people down with our words?  Are we backbiting and gossiping about others behind their backs?  Are our words life-giving?  This is especially hard to do when we have been hurt or offended, which leads us to our last point.

7. Practice forgiveness

Learn to forgive.  We all make mistakes and from time to time we all act like idiots.  Let’s choose to see the good in each other.  But what about those situations where the person doesn’t deserve forgiveness?  Choose to forgive anyways.  Holding on to all that resentment is only going to hurt you.

Shine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living in a 50 Shades World

My newsfeed has been blowing up with articles about the 50 shades phenomenon. Let me sum it up…NO! Don’t do it. Okay, now that we got that out of the way, I would like to address a bigger issue involved here. The truth is I am not shocked by 50 Shades. I don’t agree with any of it, but I am well accustomed to the idea of perversion being a part of our culture. I think that 50 Shades just takes it to the EXTREME. The perversion is so blatant and in your face that it demands confrontation. I get that. But it’s not new. The same perversion oozes from the movies on our televisions and the music on the radio. I mean Rihanna’s song “S & M” could be the theme song for 50 Shades. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me?” It’s all the same sin issue we are dealing with.

I can’t help but believe that in a culture so obsessed with perversion and sex that there is a deeper desire that exists in each heart for love and belonging. We know the 50 Shades mentality is wrong. But I’m challenged to provide a response. By my life, my words and my actions I wish to demonstrate that there is a love that is not grey, but absolute. I want to declare with my being that although there is certainly a thrill in momentary pleasures, that there is a God that provides a love that never leaves us unsatisfied or abused. I want to live a life that oozes love from my pores that doesn’t hurt and abuse others, but rather lifts them up and elevates them, even if it means that sometimes I have to make sacrifices.

I know that 50 Shades is wrong. I want to spend my life showing the world that there is a love that is true and right.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

Radiate

Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 5:16

Radiate. The word means to beam, to broadcast, to illuminate, to light up, to shine. We are called to radiate.  Let’s be honest. The world we live in is dark. We live in a world full of messed up broken people. We are all too familiar with hunger, poverty, crime, death and sorrow. We came from the darkness. We were bred into it. It was etched into our DNA. We have been brought up from darkness into light itself (Eph. 5:8). The day we said yes to Him, we shed that darkness. It fell to the floor like a snake sheds it skin and He wrapped His light around us like a blanket (Romans 13:11-14).

Jesus is light. He doesn’t just possess light or emanate light. It’s more than that…He IS light (John 8:12). In Genesis 1:3, God says let there be LIGHT. Eleven verses later He creates the sun, the stars and the moon. The light He speaks to in verse 3 is the light of the world, Jesus. This world will one day fade away, but we can be sure that there will be a new heaven and a new Earth. The city will be lit by the very glory of God. The sun and moon will no longer be relevant compared to so great a light (Rev. 21:23).  This light radiates through us. He calls us His children of light. He tells us that in the midst of a crooked and twisted society that we shine…We shine like the brightest of stars, as we cling to Him and don’t let go (Phil 2:15-16).

We were created to reflect the light of our Saviour, in much the same way that a mirror is designed to reflect the image of the one that looks at it. As the Lord sets His gaze on us, never once taking His eyes off us, we bear His reflection (Job 36:7).

Jesus tells us to never hide the light that He has put inside of us (Matthew 5:14-16). He has called us to shine. We were created to Radiate.