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.

Why I’m Happy to be Single this Valentine’s Day

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  Valentine’s Day is a holiday that stirs up alot of emotions for people, particularly single people.  Let’s be honest.  It can be a little depressing to watch everyone else getting flowers and big helium balloons, while your rocking your sweatpants on the couch, watching the Notebook accompanied by Ben and Jerry.  I get it and I have been among the masses that get’s a little pouty on Valentine’s Day.  I mean, I like getting chocolate too.  Seriously.

But this year, my take on Valentine’s Day is a little different and for possibly the first time, I can say that I am quite happy to be single this time around.  Here’s why:

1.  I like spending time with me.

Does that sound silly? Well, it’s true.  I do!  This past year, in particular, I have learned so much about myself and have learned to love myself on a whole different level.  I am learning what my strengths are and what my limitations are.  I am learning how to grow, even despite my weaknesses.  I am learning more about who I am as a woman, what it is that I am passionate about and what it is that I want out of life.  I feel like there is a time in every person’s life when they go through a season of self-discovery and it’s just really healthy to do that while you are still single.  When the day comes for me to be a part of a couple, that person is going to be getting a girl that already knows who she is.

2.  I’m not incomplete.

I am a whole person.  There are no parts of me that are missing.  When the day comes for me to be in a relationship, that person is not going to complete me.  I have already been completed by Christ.  At some point, in the future, I plan on writing more on this subject.  But ladies (and gents who are reading), stop thinking that a husband (or wife) is what’s going to make you happy.  If you aren’t happy now, you won’t be happy then either.  Figure out what you think your missing and work that out with God now.  Are you waiting on someone to make you feel beautiful and worthwhile?    God already says you are.  If you put that kind of pressure on your spouse, you’ll always be dissatisfied and you’ll leave that person feeling like they can never please you.  YOU ARE ALREADY COMPLETE.

3.  I need to make the most of it.

I realize now that this is a unique season for me and for you too!  One day in the future I am going to have a boo thang and as wonderful as he may be, he is going to suck up alot of my time.  That just happens.  One day I’ll be married and eventually I’ll have children.  But I have some living to do before all that!  Right now, I’m enjoying the many rich and awesome friendships that I have been blessed with.  I’m enjoying living on my own.  Scratch that.  I’m enjoying living with 5 other amazing women of God in community.  I’m enjoying the time I’m spending with the young people I serve, under some of the most amazing leaders I have ever known.  Some day the married life will be good.  I know that.  But I also know that right now life is good too.

4.  There’s no need to rush.

Seriously!!! Why do we all feel so much pressure to attach ourselves to someone else’s hip?  We act like if we don’t find the right person right this second that the whole thing is going to go down the tubes.  We are under so much pressure.  Society treats us like there is something wrong with being single.  We go to a wedding and are bombarded by questions: “Have you found that special someone yet?” “When is it going to be your turn?”  Relax and eat your cake Aunt Betty.  Relax.  Let’s just slow down, take a breath and enjoy our lives.  When it happens, it happens.  No sense in rushing something you hope will last forever.

So that’s my perspective this Valentine’s Day.  Maybe we can all give Nicholas Sparks’ movies a rest this year and go out and do something we enjoy.  In short, live your life like it’s golden.

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Phil. 4:12-13

A Hiding Place

I used to have this fantasy that I could escape.  I just wanted a break from everything.  Not forever, just for long enough to catch my breath and get strong again.  Through hard times and periods of exhaustion, I used to dream that I could walk through a magical door that would lead to a quiet sanctuary that was all my own, in which no one could reach me.  In that place, time would stand still and no one would miss me and when I was ready I could return and pick up from right where I left off.

Growing up in church, I have often heard of the importance of being in “the secret place with God.”  Last year, I dealt with some rough stuff and it finally dawned on me.  The secret place with God is the quiet sanctuary I have always dreamed of.  In Col. 3:3, it tells us that “our real lives are hidden with Christ in God.”  He is my hiding place!

God has promised that we may find shelter under the shadow of His wings (Psalm 91:4).  Just like a mama bird looks after her chicks, God has promised to look after and to protect us.  This hiding place can be accessed from anywhere.  All we need to do is set our focus on Jesus and be still before Him.  In that place, His love washes over us and makes us strong enough to face the battle that lies ahead.

 

Let’s Talk about Sex Baby

Sex is a pretty controversial topic that we tend to shy away from talking about in the church.  I don’t think we should.  We are really clear that this extracurricular activity is especially reserved for wives and husbands (1 Cor. 7:2).  Overall, sex is treated as the forbidden fruit.  We know we shouldn’t do it (before marriage) and many times we act as though it shouldn’t even be discussed.  But it needs to be discussed.  In a world that is saturated in sexual imagery and material, we need  to know why we are adhering to a different standard.  We have to understand the value and the importance of maintaining purity.  Hello people, it’s important.

First, let’s start with a disclaimer.  I understand that everyone’s story is different.  We live in a real world with real temptations and struggles.  Many of you, even many Christians, are probably already sexually active.  You may or may not have convictions about this subject.  This post is by no means meant to judge you.  We all have our battles.

Really, I just want to share my personal point of view.  I want to share with the world why a cute 26-year-old like myself is keeping herself to herself.  Let’s be clear, I am not an alien.  It is comical how people look at you when they find out your a virgin.  It’s like a light bulb goes off in their head and they say to themselves, “Oh, I get it!  This girl is from Mars.”  No, not the case.

I am a Bible-believing Christian, so I do apply Biblical standards to my life.  If that were the only reason it would be good enough, but it’s not the only reason.

I like to avoid drama and trauma.  Being single for all these years, I have observed alot of successful relationships and non-successful relationships as an outsider.  A relationship always changes in dynamic when sex has taken place.  A whole new level of closeness is achieved, but not just physically.  That person becomes a part of you.  They are etched in your mind and in your heart.  The strongest bond that can be achieved between a male and a woman is cemented.  When two bodies are fused, two souls become fused as well.  But that’s what God designed sex for and that’s what makes it so beautiful in marriage.  Outside of marriage, it can be devastating.

I have formed emotional bonds with people that have been broken and it is always painful.  But I have known many people that have broken off relationships with people they have been sexually intimate with and the pain they experience is brought to a whole new extreme.  People feel incomplete and like they are missing a part of themselves.  It’s part of the reason why people are willing to stick it out in bad relationships or keep returning to a destructive relationship.  I often make fun of Mariah Carey’s song “Always Be My Baby.”  The chorus goes like this:

You’ll always be a part of me.  I’m part of you indefinitely.  Boy don’t you know you can’t escape me.  Oh darling, cause you’ll always be my baby.

It sounds romantic until you think about it…what if the relationship is really over?  Then it becomes creepy and unhealthy.  But that’s what sex creates, the feeling as though someone belongs to you and you belong to them, which again is perfect for a marriage, but dangerous otherwise.

Some will argue that their relationship is so committed and awesome that sex for them is appropriate, because they plan on getting married and staying together forever.  For some people maybe it works out that way, but from what I’ve observed, the majority of people who think that way end up broken and hurt at some point down the road, wishing they hadn’t given such a big piece of themselves away.

I believe in marriage.  Someday I hope to be married and to have a family.  Just because I’m single it doesn’t mean I can’t start taking my marriage seriously now, by making choices that will honor my one day husband.  So, I’m saving myself and when I say I’m saving myself it doesn’t mean that I’m willing to do everything but the main event, if you catch my drift.  I’m not going to tow the line or get as close to the fire as I can before I get burnt.  Nope.  I don’t want to compromise my physical or emotional purity and I know that someday I’ll be so glad that I waited for the right person…my husband.

I don’t believe in intimacy without commitment.  Before I give anyone my body, and along with that my heart and my soul, I need to know that person is in it for the long haul…in it for life.  Marriage is the ultimate commitment that I’m holding out for.

As far as I’m concerned, if you like it then you better put a ring on it.

This Shall Not End in Death

The story of Lazarus is one I really identify with.  You can read up on it in John chapter 11, but for those who have never heard it, I’ll give you the condensed Tflow version right here.  Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha.  The three siblings were close to Jesus.  Jesus knew them personally and He would come and stay at there house to rest.  Lazarus becomes very sick and the two sisters send word to Jesus.

When Jesus hears about Lazarus’ illness, the first thing He says is “This sickness will not end in death.”  Wahoo!  He is God after all and He has been healing everyone else, so it shouldn’t surprise us that He would heal His friend.  However, it is what is said right after that catches my attention: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days” (John 11:5-6).  WHAT?????  He loves them, so He makes them wait?  How does that make sense?

To finish off the story, by the time Jesus’ arrives on the scene Lazarus has died and has been dead for four days.  A crowd of people had already come to comfort the sisters and Mary and Martha are besides themselves.  But Jesus is filled with compassion and He does the unthinkable.  He raises Lazarus from the dead.

Now, that is a wonderful close to an otherwise depressing story, but the question still remains.  Why make them wait?  If Jesus had come sooner, Lazarus may have never died in the first place and He would have saved the sister’s a whole lot of heartache.  It says that it was because of His love that Jesus does this, but doesn’t that seem a little considerate and even rude?

In verse 14, I think we find the key to this mystery.  Jesus says, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe…”  I am convinced that God will allow us to reach the place where are circumstances seem dead and lifeless, so that we know just what He is capable of.  He allows us to reach our darkest, weakest and most desperate moments so that He can show us His strength.

It is true that Jesus could have arrived before Lazarus had ever died, but then the sisters and the village would not know the power He had to breathe life into the dead!  Jesus knew that He himself would soon go to the cross and be crucified.  When that happened, He needed for Martha, Mary and Lazarus to know that just as He had raised Lazarus from the dead that He would raise Himself.

What situations in your life seem dead?  In what areas of your life have you felt hopeless?  Perhaps this is your Lazarus moment.  Perhaps God, in your weakness, is ready to bust out His strength.  Reflect on all the times before, you thought that you would never make it through.  But by His grace, His goodness and His love, He rescued you out of the darkness and caused you to stand firm in His light.  He has done it before and He will do it again.

Remember, this will not end in death.

Full of the Power of Prayer: Daniel Nash

Charles Finney is a name you may be familiar with.  He is known as the leading revivalist of the nineteenth century and is often referred to as “The Father of Modern Revivalism.” Over half a million salvations have been attributed to His ministry.

In comparison, very few people are familiar with the name Daniel Nash, despite the fact that much of Finney’s success in ministry resulted from the influence of this powerful man of prayer.  Nash’s role was key.  Weeks before Finney would travel to a certain area to preach the Gospel, Nash would go on ahead of Him, preparing the area to receive the Word of God.  Nash would continue in prayer during the meetings.  Finney said of Nash “He was full of the power of prayer.”

Prayer laid the foundation for this dynamic duo and their powerful evangelistic ministry.  In a letter, Nash wrote, “Our highest ambition was to go where there was neither a minister or reformation and try to look up the lost sheep, for whom no man cared.  We began and the Lord prospered.”  This resonates with me, as I remember the words of Jesus, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10 NIV).

As I mentioned in a previous post, lately, the burden to pray has rested heavily on my shoulders.  In a span of one week, I have attended two worship services that have erupted into fervent prayer meetings for family members and friends who do not know Jesus or who do but have walked away from the faith.  Reading up on Nash, I was amazed to read what Finney said of him:

“I was acquainted with an individual who used to keep a list of persons for whom he was especially concerned; and I have had the opportunity to know a multitude of persons, for whom he became thus interested, who were immediately converted.  I have seen him pray for persons on his list when he was literally in an agony for them; and have sometimes known him call on some person to help him pray for such a one.  I have known his mind to fasten thus on an individual of hardened, abandoned character, and who could not be reached in an ordinary way.”

Prior to reading this, for the last month, I have prayed over a list of people daily.  At times, I have literally cried over my list, feeling an overwhelming sense of compassion for these people that I adore.  I know that this is something that God is doing in me and I am aware that a Spirit of fervent prayer is spreading throughout the church.  I heard it said by Corey Russell, a well-known leader from IHOP Kansas City, that the Lord has impressed upon him that for every voice of awakening there will be seven voices of intercession that He raises up.

I am more than happy to one of those voices of intercession.  Let’s stand together in the place of prayer.

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

You Are Chosen

Everyone wants to be chosen, to be picked.  We all feel it, the desire to be chosen out of the crowd and recognized as someone special.  We want to be someone’s top choice, somebody’s treasured possession.  For just once, we want to know that we mean everything to someone who means everything to us.  Don’t we?

But you were already picked.  You have been selected.  Chosen.  The very God that created everything that we can see, hear and feel chose you before He even laid the foundations of the world.  Before He ever created this place called Earth, He thought of you and He chose you right then.  He chose you, so that He may bless you in every way possible (Eph. 1:3).  He chose you to reflect His image, His goodness, His love, His purity, His joy.  He chose you to show the world what He looks like.

You have not always chosen Him.  You have turned a blind eye at times.  You have denied Him.  You have walked away.  You have acted in ways that have hurt Him, but still He chose you, even then.  Even as you rejected Him, He chose you.  He chose you to live a life filled with His love, peace, faith, kindness and gentleness.  A life filled with the kind of things that last forever (John 15:16) (Gal. 5:22-23).

You belong to Him. You are royalty in His sight (1 Peter 2:9).  He gave His son Jesus’ life in exchange for yours, so that you could be called redeemed.  And because He has chosen you, you never need to be afraid.

Inked

Tatoos.  I don’t know how you feel about them.  Some feel they are okay to have.  Others disagree.  But this isn’t about that.

People get tattoos for many reasons.  For some, they choose a beautiful artistic piece, as an expression of some part of themselves.  Others choose a word that inspires them and gives them hope.  Others choose the name of a loved one, a physical declaration that the person is a part of them and forever etched on their hearts.  Whatever the reason, the tattoo is always permanent.  The person is marked forever.

In Isaiah 49:6, God tells us “I have written your name on the palms of my hands.”  Can you just stop for a minute and consider how amazing that is?  The God of all creation has chosen to mark Himself forever with your name.  He is permanently branded by you.  He sees you as an expression of Himself.  You provoke His love and tug at the strings of His heart.  You are a part of Him forever.  He has chosen to love you forever and will never forget you.

When Jesus died on the cross, the nails went right through His hands.  The scars they left were permanent.  And over each of those scars your name is written.  The biggest expression of His love happened the moment He gave His life so that we could be reunited with Him.

See before that moment we were marked too.  Marked by sin.  Marked by guilt and marked by shame.  He allowed Himself to be marked, to erase ours.

“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Lift Up Your Voice

In Matthew 25:14-30, we find the story of a man that goes on a journey and entrusts his wealth to his servants.  You may already be familiar with it.  To one man he gives five bags of gold, to another two and to the last, one.  When the man returns, he finds that the man with the five bags has earned five more and the man with the two bags has gained two more.  But the man with the one bag had dug a hole in the ground and buried it.  The man commends the servants that invested the money wisely, but he calls the last man wicked and lazy.  He gives that bag of gold to the servant with ten bags, knowing that he uses his resources wisely.

A while back, God really began to speak to me about the way I compare myself to others.  I do this alot when it comes to ministry.  Ever since i was 13, I have wanted to work full-time teaching young people about Jesus.  I have been blessed to have several mentors that have helped me to grow toward this goal and I am extremely grateful for them.  However, I have been guilty of looking at other leaders that I admire and disqualifying myself because I don’t look like them.  When I speak I don’t sound like them. My brain doesn’t process things like them.  I’m different.

This insecurity has especially come into play with public speaking.  If you want to be a youth minister, you have to learn how to talk to youth, publicly.  I have always hated public speaking so developing this gift has been a struggle.  I watch other people speak and they seem so confident.  When I have to speak, my nerves go wild.  Alot of that nervousness comes from my fear that people will not accept my voice, because it is different from what they are used to hearing.

You probably struggle in different areas, but I would say most people struggle at one time or another with the need to compare themselves to others.

So how does this relate to the story of the man with his bags of gold?  God has revealed to me that whenever I try to be someone else I am burying my gold in the sand.  God has made me different on purpose.  My voice is different and it’s supposed to be.  When I spend all my efforts trying to be somebody else, I leave the gifts and the potential that God has given me largely untapped.  In that way, I leave all the resources He has put at my fingertips wasting away.

God has given me and you a voice.  The purpose of that voice is to speak out to the world the message of love and grace that He has made known to us, with the unique personality that He has given us to speak it with.  There are people that you can reach with your voice that I can’t and vice versa.  That’s why God calls us a body, all the parts need each other.

Stop wasting your time wishing you were somebody else and lift up your voice!

Behind the Music

Music is an incredibly powerful force.  Music allows us to express emotions that we can’t express with words and is highly spiritual in nature.

Lately, I have been fascinated by the power that music has over us.  We will embrace just about any message if it is wrapped in a good beat.  It’s crazy!  I am a 90’s girl at heart and there are certain songs that I sang along to for years and have just now discovered the meaning of.  How many of you remember the song “Sonny Came Home?”  It is about a girl who burns down the whole dang town to “make a few small repairs.”  Creepy!  “Semi-charmed Kind of Life” is all about taking drugs.  They reference Crystal Meth right in the song.  Both songs sound so upbeat!  A friend of mine and I were talking about how one day she found herself jamming out to what seemed like another upbeat song, when suddenly she realized the refrain was “Slip the noose around your neck.”  Whoa!  Too much.  How about that girl power anthem by Alicia Keys “Girl on Fire,” when Nicki Minaj jumps in singing “The Spirit of Marilyn…telling me to come with her, underneath the comforter and she brought a gun with her.”  Why do we accept these things as so normal?  What if these words weren’t set to music, but were said to you in a conversation?  Would your reaction change to one of alarm and concern?

This past Sunday, we had the superbowl.  Katy Perry performed and there was a surprise performance by Missy Elliott.  Missy began singing her “Work It ” song, a song replete with vile and pornographic sexual imagery.  But the song has a sick beat.  I am convinced most people never actually stop to pay attention to what songs are really saying.  We have become so desensitized to what the Bible clearly calls wickedness and sin that we don’t even blink an eye.

Music not only reflects our culture, but it also assists in shaping our culture, especially when it comes to children and youth.  We don’t think anything of it when the songs we listen to are filled with references to drugs, violence, sexual perversion and degradation of women, but we get all bent out of shape when the people around us begin to exemplify those same values.

Music was created by God as a means for us to express our worship and adoration of Him.  Along the way, people began to use music as pure entertainment.  I will admit that I do not listen to Christian music exclusively.  However, what I am beginning to notice is that some of this “entertainment” is actually slipping into the realm of worship…the worship of darkness.  Much of the music that is being played puts sin on a pedestal and glorifies disobedience to God.  Gradually overtime, sin and perversion has become the new norm.

Whether we are promoting darkness or light, our worship is doing warfare.

In 2 Chronicles chapter 20, we find the story of Jehoshaphat when he goes to battle against the Moabites and the Ammonites.  As they go out to battle, Jehoshaphat appoints men to sing praises at the head of the army.  As they begin to worship, an incredible thing happens.  The army that was coming against them destroys one another.  When Jehoshaphat’s army finally arrives at the place that overlooks the desert, they see a vast army that has been utterly defeated.  Their worship defeated the enemy.

My fear is that much of the music we mindlessly listen to actually empowers and advances the causes of the enemy. My fear is that as we continue to glorify sin and disobedience to God through our entertainment choices that a generation of young people is being destroyed right before our eyes.

My point in all of this is that we can’t be mindless consumers.  Although all of this may be the forced new “normal” that has subtly pushed it’s way into our society, it simply cannot be our normal.  I am challenging myself to rethink what I accept as normal and to push myself to view the world around me through the eyes of Jesus.  I am challenging myself to use my choices and my voice to amplify His message of love, hope and grace, in a world full of brokenness, sin and hate.

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you  fit into it without even thinking.  Instead, fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out.” Romans 12:2 MSG