One Step Closer

Do you ever just want answers? How will things turn out? When will it happen? How will it happen? Will it ever happen? What will the future bring? Will it all turn out okay? I’m the type of girl who has always wanted answers. There is safety in answers. I find protection in knowing. If I can anticipate an outcome, I can brace myself for the impact and prepare myself for the fall out. There is too much wiggle room for me in questions. Too much margin for error. Too much unknown. Too uncertain. I look for answers in my circumstances. From time to time, I even try to pressure other people for answers that they don’t have to give. Of course, I also pressure God for answers, but somehow He never seems to be too pressured.

Lately, life has been full of possibility. Every now and then, I see glimpses of my dreams creeping into reality, but they are always accompanied by question marks. Could it be? Could this be the beginning of a hope fulfilled? God, are you in this? Lord, where are you leading me in all of this? This, naturally, frustrates me. Has anyone else ever felt that way before? I’m sure you have asked yourself questions before like, God can this really be the job for me? The school for me? The relationship for me? The ministry for me? Is this where you are leading me Lord, or should I be anticipating something else?

As much as I hate to say it, it all boils down to trust. If I put my trust in my circumstances or rest all my hope in something that might change, I am bound to find myself let down and disappointed. But if I put my trust in my heavenly Father, I can be rest assured that He will always come through and lead me to victory, no matter what the circumstances look like. As it is written, in Hebrews 6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” When we place our focus on the questions in life, it will lead us to fear, but when we set our gaze on the one who holds all the answers, we can experience true peace and confidence. We can know that whatever the future holds it will be for our best and it will be good.

Much of the time the answer God gives us is wait. Isn’t that the worst? But God always uses seasons of waiting to strengthen our faith and to increase our confidence in Him. I love the quote that says, “Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on what we’re waiting for.” We hold our dreams with an open hand before the Lord. We put Him first above everything else and we trust that when we wait for Him to bring about the best plan at the best possible time that it will be far better than anything we could have come up with on our own. It will have been well worth the wait.

We can know that each day we walk out our faith in Christ, we are one step closer to seeing our dreams come to pass. “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” (Ps. 37:23-24)

On Leaving Behind a Legacy

Recently, one of my cousins passed away. Although I didn’t know him well, I attended his memorial service with my parents to show support for the family. I’m glad I did because I was so touched by what I heard at his memorial and all the kind words that were spoken about him. My cousin loved music and dancing. From what I understand, he was a jokester, a very common trait in our family. My cousin had also fallen upon some hard times in his life. There was a sense of brokenness there that led to the circumstances surrounding his death. This makes coping with one’s death even harder. Especially, when you know a life was taken way too soon.

Towards the end of the service, one of the pastors present got up to share a few words about legacy. It was then that I learned that my cousin had given his life to the Lord over 20 years ago. I learned that he dragged his sister and her best friend to church shortly after, where they both received Jesus. His sister has always stood out to me as someone who is fiercely passionate about the Lord. Not too long ago, she sat down with me and provided so much encouragement at a time in my life, when I was feeling overwhelmed and at my wit’s end. It would be my logical assumption that it was she that led her brother to the Lord, but this was not the case! From there, she introduced her boyfriend (now husband) to the Lord. Her kids are being raised to serve the Lord and I’m sure that God has used her family to touch the lives of many other people that need to experience the love of Jesus. This was all because one imperfect man took the single step of obedience to say yes to Jesus.

In the midst of a memorial service for one whose life was taken too soon, what a stunning reminder of a God who redeems and restores all that is broken. Even in the midst of our brokenness, our mistakes and all the falling down we do, God takes every yes we say to Him and makes it a legacy for His glory. The legacy we leave behind will consist of those people in our lives with whom we shared the truth of the gospel.

We are instructed not to focus our time and energy in this life collecting things that will eventually be destroyed. We are commanded instead to “store up treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20). Mostly everything in this life, we are not able to take with us when we pass, but lives that have been transformed by the power of Christ’s love continue to be a treasure that radiate throughout eternity. Let’s live with an eternal perspective. Let’s leave behind a legacy.

Beauty in Brokenness

Recently, I have been on a traveling kick. As of this winter, I have had it stuck in my mind that I need to see the whole world. I have made plans in my head to go to the Carribean, Europe and a few other places I have always wanted to see. I want to see all the beautiful parts of the world. I want to experience the wonder of these places first hand. I want to do it in style too. I want to stay in nice hotels. I want to eat amazing food. I’d like to pretend that I live in luxury and that I could do whatever I want, as if money was not a consideration. I think we all would like this. Am I right?

We all desire beauty. We want to be beautiful. We want to see beauty. We want to feel beauty. We want to experience beauty and to lead a beautiful life. What I love about Jesus is that he brings beauty to brokenness. Lately, I have been so blessed and in awe of how God brings his beauty to even the darkest of situations. He uses the storms and trials of life to bring us right to the place that He has called us to be. No matter how badly we have screwed things up, no matter how hopeless things may seem, there is no limit to what He can do when we finally make the choice to surrender our hearts to Him and to go all in. The most beautiful thing of all is a love so strong that no ugliness we encounter in life can ever separate us from it. As Paul writes in Romans, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of Hell can separate us from God’s love.” (Romans 8:38)

And God uses us to carry his beauty into the lives of broken individuals. I live in the city of New Haven. I work with families on welfare to help them to gain their independence and to find employment. What I love about this job is that I am uniquely positioned to bring hope to people who may very well be facing one the most challenging seasons of their life. In my freetime, I work with inner city youth. I love being invested in the lives of our youth, even in their messiness, because I know God is working His beauty into their storylines. This is the gospel. In our brokenness, Jeses came to us. He rescued us by dying a painful death on the cross, in order that we may experience the outworking of His beauty in our lives and upon our hearts. He uses us to carry His message of love into the lives of broken individuals.

It says in scripture, “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (2 Cor. 5:19-20). Today, where is the brokennness in your life that God wants to introduce to His beauty? Where are the broken people around you that need to experience God’s beauty through you? You can be rest assured that he is working out a beautiful ending to even the most heartbreaking of stories.

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Voices

There are situations in life that require us to get completely alone, shut the door on the world, take the ear buds out and to posture our hearts to hear the voice of God and God alone. There are important moments in life, moments when we stand with our tip toes at the edge of breakthrough, in which it becomes vital for us to seek the voice of God above all else. In fact, it’s vital that we always seek the voice of God above all else.

There will always be other voices. There will always be people in your life that clamor to have input and to throw their two cents in to your personal life story. With each choice you make, there will always be plenty of opinions to go around. I do believe that it is important for us to seek out wise counsel with friends and loved ones that you trust. This is not what I’m referring to. What I am referring to is the white noise in the background of every life choice we face that sounds like pure confusion and chaos. Silence the white noise.

When you stop to seek out the voice of God, at times you will ruffle some feathers. You will arrive at conclusions that don’t make sense to other people. At times, people will even be hurt and offended. I remember what happened three or four years ago when I decided I was being led to leave my studies on campus to pursue my Master’s degree in an online format from home instead. There were people in my family, people I desired to please, that were angry about this. I was told I was making a big mistake. I was told that I would be missing out in life. But in my heart, I couldn’t resist the tug from the Holy Spirit that it was time to pack up my bags and to come home. That decision led me to one of the most fruitful seasons of my life thus far and opened me up to many opportunities that I would not have had if I had chosen to listen to other voices above God.

We are told in scripture that the Spirit will “guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13). What answers are you seeking today? What are the questions burning inside of your heart? Where are you looking for direction? Make up your mind to get alone with God and to allow the Holy Spirit to silence the noise, so you could hear the voice of your heavenly Father crystal clear. He will teach you to learn to recognize His voice.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

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Regeneration: The New Thing God is Doing in You

This week, I have been reflecting on this particular passage from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus:

With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against Him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God-truly righteous and holy. (Eph. 4:17-24)

What really stood out to me about this passage is God’s desire that we throw off our former way of life, to step into the new life that He has to offer us. Paul paints an accurate picture of what life before Christ was like. We were hopeless and confused. Our minds were clouded by darkness. We wandered far away from the presence of the Lord. Our minds were closed and our hearts were hardened against Him. I believe that many of us, although we have surrendered our lives to Jesus, still hold on to fragments of our broken pasts.

I have been guilty of this as well. There have been several situations and people in my life that have inflicted deep wounds upon my heart. I can’t say my first response has always been to allow God to do the healing. I have become quite adept at building walls and creating defense mechanisms to protect myself from future harm. At times I have been guilty of protecting myself against hope itself, fearful that if I hope for anything I would only face discouragement and disappointment. I have at times viewed my world through a lens of brokenness and have missed out on the joy of living in the moment. In this manner, I have taken my wounds and layered on bandaids. I have learned to walk with a crutch.

However, this is not how God does healing. God not only heals us, but he also regenerates us. According to Theopedia.com, regeneration is the spiritual transformation in a person, brought about by the Holy Spirit, that brings the individual from being spiritually dead, to becoming a spiritually alive human being. In biology, regeneration is defined as the process of renewal, restoration and growth that makes organisms resilient to events that cause disturbance or damage. For example, a sea cucmber, when attacked by a predator or when it encounters damaging materials is able to extrude it’s damaged organs from it’s body and regenerate new ones within two months. If a sea cucmber is cut into two or three pieces, each piece will grow into a new animal.

This is the type of work God desires to do in each one of us. God doesn’t do surface level healing. He desires to completely renew and restore all that is dead inside. Notice how Paul words it: Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. It is the Holy Spirit that does the work of renewal within us. Before our actions and outward behaviors can change, their needs to be a change in our hearts and our minds. God desires to give us an entirely new nature that He designed to reflect His likeness, His character and His heart.

In order for us to experience the fullness of the healing that God has to offer, we have to be willing to set aside our crutches and tear off the bandages. We have to allow our wounds to be exposed to the light. Although it might be painful, we have to allow ourselves to experience the pain, in order that God can root out all that is dark within us. We have to be willing to open ourselves up to Jesus and to hand Him every fear, every lie, every hurt and every insecurity. When we allow Him into even those places we so desire to keep shut, He brings newness, in ways we could have never possibly imagined.

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Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Phil. 3:13-14)

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 Faith and Taking Risks

In Hebrews 11:1, it is written, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is a tricky subject. It is so integral to our journey with Jesus and yet can often seem so difficult to grasp or to hold onto. Having faith can be difficult for a plethora of reasons. Maybe past experiences would tell us that things never change. Nothing ever goes right. Everything falls through. Maybe the walls we build up to protect our own hearts against let downs and disappointments prohibit faith from entering in, lest we believe for something good and get our hearts broken. Maybe we lack trust in God’s goodness and love in our lives. Faith is not cut and dry.

This verse has often been explained to me as what takes place when human beings believe for something and speak something out into their natural environment and circumstances trusting that things will happen through the power of the Spirit. We often talk about “speaking things into existence.” I believe it is absolutely important for us to stand on the promises of God and make faith declarations. The tongue is a powerful thing.

However, recently, God has been highlighting another important element of this scriptural truth to me. The other important component of this verse speaks of putting words into action and taking risks. A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a teaching (I cannot give credit because I can’t remember who it was). The preacher spoke on the substance of faith. According to his interpretation, the substance of faith includes the steps that we take in the natural to stand on the promises of God. The substance of faith speaks of those things we do in our lives, as a result of the faith that we profess to have. It is the risks we take as a result of our growing confidence and trust in God. It is stepping out on a limb.

To explain it in a different manner, James 2:17 tells us that “Faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead.” I am blessed to have people in my life that encourage me daily in the truths of God. One such person and I were discussing faith sometime last week. He began talking to me about how faith, without actions and risks, just doesn’t amount to much. For instance, what good would it be to believe God for a new position and a financial increase, if we never apply for a job? How much faith are we demonstrating if we only put ourselves out there for opportunities that are in our comfort zones…things we feel we can handle in our own strength? Are we really trusting in God’s goodness if we never take a risk?

Trusting God is a risk. We risk that His agenda is different than ours. We risk that He might ask us to do something that we are uncomfortable with. We risk that He might take us somewhere we have never been before. There is risk involved in letting our walls down and letting people in so that we can demonstrate his love to a broken world. There is risk in taking steps forward when we can’t see the finish line. But we can know with absolute certainty that in this journey, we are never alone. Our companion is trustworthy. An adventure is waiting. Take the step.

I am my Father’s daughter

A couple of days ago, I was sitting in my car thinking about my life. I feel as though I am on the brink of a major turning point and that God is opening up the door for new and exciting adventures with Him. Certain dreams that I have had pertaining to my life and my calling suddenly all feel within my grasp and I am anticipating good things to come of this year. However, as I was thinking about all of this an old familiar fear creeped in. What if nothing changes? What if everything stays the same? What if things fall through, as I have known them to do in the past?

I was reminded of a time a couple of years back, when I also felt that I was at a turning point. I felt like my dreams were within my reach. Things, however, started to crumble, fear crept in and I remember saying, “If this does not work out, I will have such a difficult time trusting God.” Yup. I said that. Everything ended up falling through and in the months that followed God did an incredible work in my heart, drawing me deeper into relationship with Him and restoring my trust in Him. God used that situation to bring me to where I am today and though it was a difficult adjustment for me, I know what I went through was necessary for my growth and for the season ahead.

As I pondered all of this earlier this week, I heard these words in my spirit, “I am my Father’s Daughter.” We use these words as a playful way to link certain aspects of our personality with our earthly parents. We are able to realize that certain things that we do, we do because of our genetic make-up or the way that we have been raised. Spiritually speaking, the moment that we said yes to Jesus,¬†we were adopted into the family of Heaven and God became our true Father. Whether dreams come true or promises come to pass that will always be true. It’s who we are. It’s our identity.

As I allowed the words, “I am my Father’s Daughter,” to wash over me. I realized that I am in a different place than I was last time. If dreams don’t come to pass and things fall through, though it will be painful for a seaon, I know whose child I am. My feet are firmly rooted by a trust and confidence in Him that doesn’t rely on external circumstances but rather draws from a revelation of who my Father is and who He has called me to be.

In Romans 8:14-17, we are told, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit that you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now, if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”

With the Spirit of my heavenly Father dwelling within me, I need not be afraid. I am not a slave to fear. I am not a slave to my circumstances. Even in the face of let downs, failures and disappoints, I will not shrink back from the love of God. My heart crys, “Abba.” He provides for my deepest needs. All of my deepest longings are met in Him. Everything he has, he has made available to me. I am my Father’s daughter.

 

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