Monday, April 30, 2012

Day 14 - The harvest is plentiful.

Jesus sends out the seventy-two -  Luke 10:1-24

Jesus reminds His disciples again of their mission - to go out into the world, heal the sick and broken, and preach about Jesus. He reminds them that the "harvest is plentiful and the workers are few." There are so many who need Jesus, and so few who are willing to fulfill God's command to serve and teach.
He tells the disciples of the power He has given them, but reminds them that this power is for the Glory of God, and that they are not to rejoice in their own strength, but rather that "their names are written in heaven." He reminds them that these abilities are from God, not in their own strength, but in the strength and power and might of God.
And Jesus reminds them that they are blessed, for much had been revealed to them.

"Just soak in the fact that Jesus continues to say "Go!" to His disciples. I think He really means it."


-Go. What does that communicate to you? Be honest.

It means being willing to do, go, and say anything, to be anyone. It means holding my hands open and giving up everything to Jesus. Saying, "whatever you want, Lord, I want."
It means living a life focused completely on Jesus, on spreading His gospel, on sharing His light, on setting slaves to sin free by telling them about the blood of Jesus, the ultimate price of love He paid.
It's living in a way that doesn't focus on what the world wants, but what Jesus wants.
Mostly, it means sacrificing, and sacrificing everything. Going uncomfortable places, saying uncomfortable things. It's leaving what is comfortable and familiar and not being of this world. It's remembering that this is not my home, and living in a manner that reflects my true home.
It's going against the world's standards and living by God's standards.
And mostly, it's sharing, telling, and showing the Gospel of Love that transforms lives in incredible ways.

-The metaphor of being "lambs among wolves" is significant here. A lamb in that day was the price for the atonement of sins. A lamb is also seen as pure, innocent, and needy. In what ways are you to be a lamb among wolves?

We are called to die to the world, to sacrifice our lives for Jesus. I think we are also called to sacrifice for others, to put their lives above our own and give our lives to Jesus, and to save others. When we become Christians we don't just believe in Jesus, we are to give Him our lives. But we are also called to be pure, to follow Christ's example and live free of sin. This doesn't mean we won't succumb to it, I do all the time, but we're freed from the bondage of sin, washed pure and clean in Christ's blood. And I think we're to be needy too. Needy in a weak, helpless way, to realize without God we are nothing, without His great strength we could not make it.
We are to give up our will and our desire for control and surrender to Him.

-How can we respond to others who want to hear the message of Jesus? Or perhaps the question is more like, how should we respond?

I feel like this is a trick question because the answer seems so straightforward - tell them! Tell them about Jesus' love, show them how much He cares. And if they aren't ready to really hear about Him, then we should just care and love them, show them Jesus' love through our actions and let Jesus' light shine through us. We are called to share the message of Jesus, and when people want to hear it, our response should be to eagerly, truthfully, and lovingly tell them!

-In what ways does the idea of going to tell others about Jesus excite or scare you?

It excites me because Jesus is just so amazing, and I want everyone to know that! His love for us is so incredible. I am so unworthy of His love. The only thing I can give Him is my life. He has done so much for all of us, and He deserves that we all give Him our hearts and lives, and I want people to know that. I want them to know that kind of incredible love, and I want Jesus to get that love in return. So that part just makes me so happy, and experiencing that love and happiness makes me want everyone else to know it, to feel the freedom from sin and shame and the light freedom of true life.
But it does scare me. It scares me because it's intimidating to tell people about Jesus. Some people are hateful, others are judgmental, others skeptical. I don't want them to think badly of me. I want people to like me. It's scary because I don't want to mess it up and misrepresent Jesus. In America true persecution is not as real of a threat, but what other believers go through to share Jesus' word is scary, too.
As scary as it is, I do think it is worth it. And I know I have to give up my fears and trust God to provide the strength and courage I most certainly do not possess.

-The necessity of relying on God comes up again with the disciples needing to rely on others for their food, clothing, and shelter. In what ways do you struggle to receive from God or from others?

God has really helped me in recent months to rely on Him for materialistic needs. I'm not worried about paying off loans, or even paying for college now. I know He'll provide for those needs and others. I think more I struggle to trust Him for the people and relationships in my life, that He'll provide friends and that when they fail, He'll always be there. I guess I struggle to receive in that way from others too, I'm afraid of them leaving/realistically realizing that people naturally move on in their lives. I need to learn to be joyful and content in the moment, and not be concerned with the future.

-In what ways do you see Jesus using you as a laborer for the harvest? Where is the harvest field for you?

Right now it's in Passage, Cru, my small group, my family, and hopefully with my friends. And Jesus has given me a heart for orphans, slaves, and the unloved and unwanted. He's given me a desire to work for Cru after I graduate, adopt kids from around the world, and fight human trafficking in some way. I don't know exactly how these things will manifest themselves, but I'm so excited for the adventure He's taking me on. I want to make a difference in the world, I want to make a difference in lives, I want to change lives, for Jesus, to show His glory, His love, His mercy, His grace.

-What do you think was most important for the disciples to learn here?

That it wasn't gonna be easy, but that Jesus would be with them. That He had given them power, not for their glory, but for His. That the world would be against them, but it wouldn't matter because Jesus was for them, and they they were called to be uncomfortable for Jesus.

-What do you need to learn concerning your desire to go?

That it's in Jesus' hands, and He can change those desires at any moment. I need to remember that all good desires can become bad if they become controlling, that Jesus has given me passions, but that I need to keep my hands open and be willing for those passions to change, for the path to change direction, to go anywhere He wants me to go, do anything He wants me to do, and say anything He wants me to say, for His glory, not my own.

Cool Story, Bro.

I love this story. My mom emailed it to me awhile ago and I like periodically re-reading it. It's from a letter sent out by the JESUS Film Project.

It's just so cool, so amazing, so uplifting, so encouraging to hear about and see the incredible work Jesus is doing around the world. 

His film team had taken a courageous step, going into a village in a dangerous, mountainous area. They brought a DVD of “JESUS”... The team gathered about 250 people into a community hall, plugged a small DVD player into a television already there, and closed the windows for secrecy. It was crowded and tight and the screen relatively small, but everyone stayed and watched the entire “JESUS” film.

When it came time for the team to give the invitation to receive Christ (another courageous act that could get them killed), a man sitting on the floor quickly stood. He opened his shirt and turned around so all could see.

Strapped to his chest were explosives...a suicide vest. Panic set in...

“Wait...wait! Don’t leave. I’m not going to blow myself up. I need to tell you what just happened.” It took several minutes to convince the people to stay, and at last they did.

“I heard that you were going to show a blasphemous film. I went to my leaders, and they agreed you should die. I strapped on this bomb and came to kill you all.
“When the film started I reached for the detonator and tried to push the button, but as I watched the TV, Jesus turned and pointed right at me. He called my name and said loudly, ‘Don’t do that...follow Me.’ He spoke in my own dialect.

“Over and over I tried. Every time I reached for the button He pointed to me and said, ‘Don’t do that...follow Me.’ My hand froze every time. I couldn’t move my thumb. I gave up and just stayed to watch.

“Now I believe. I want Jesus to be my Savior. Can you help me know more about Him?”

The team leader said, “Yes, of course, but first you must take off that vest!” The would-be suicide bomber went out from the building, far away, took it off, disarming the explosives. He returned and the team prayed for him - but that’s not all.

Remember that this is an extremely dangerous area, one intensely hostile to Christianity. Anyone leaving their traditions can expect to be killed.

Yet the Word of God contained in “JESUS” spoke to the people. It was a powerful experience as they learned the truth of the gospel. Further, the people were amazed by this man’s testimony. He was a radical who would stop at nothing. They knew that had just seen a miracle.

When the film team leader asked who wanted to receive Christ and pray, everyone did...all of them! The next day, the team held a service where 250 new believers were baptized into their new faith, including the man with the suicide vest!
How powerful is our God. How loving that He claimed a would-be suicide bomber as His own and everyone in that room the man had come to destroy.

Day 13 - Oh, good to know.

Jesus reveals the cost of following Him - Luke 9:57-62

While this is a rather short passage, it's also possibly one of the most powerful and important bits of scripture for our adventure with Jesus. 

When we start believing in and following Jesus, life becomes awesome, but often "awesome" is interpreted as "easy." 

But as Jesus clearly states in John, "in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world."

Reality check: it's not easy, but it's absolutely totally worth it. 

Diggin' Deeper:

-What is it about Jesus that would draw people to spend time with Him, to follow Him?

I think people could really see Jesus' power. They knew He was no ordinary man. Luke 4:32 says, "they were amazed at His teaching, because His message had authority." Verse 36 says, "all the people were amazed and said to one another, 'What is this teaching? With authority and pwer He gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!'" 
That kind of power, leadership, and authority is attractive, people wanted to be part of that. 

-How often do you rely on how others view you as a gauge of your spiritual maturity? 

This book is totally reading my mind...guess what I was just thinking/praying/feeling convicted about today? Yup. How often I do look to others' view of me to determine how I feel about my relationship with God. It's so easy to get sucked into worrying about if I look spiritual enough, if my walk with Jesus is impressive. God really showed me my pride in this area today, reminding me that this journey is about Him, absolutely not about me how anyone else perceives me. 

-Notice the repetition of the word "first." What things do you tend to place "first" in front of Jesus?

Friends, family, comfort, things. It depends on the day and the circumstance, but I'd say those are things that it's way too easy to pick first. Or school, other commitments. How easy it is to say I'm too busy for time with Jesus, that I don't have a mere half hour to take out of my oh-so-incredibly important schedule to spend with the awesome King of the Universe. Way too easy to fall into that trap. Life is so busy, so full of appointments and commitments and crazy hectic schedules. Jesus is still more important, though. Thinking "I"ll do it tomorrow" is not okay. Jesus should be first, in everything. 

-Why do you think Jesus is so harsh to some of those who wanted to follow yet had things to finish before they were able?

Because their hearts were not fully committed. They were placing other things, people, and moments above Jesus. Not that the things they wanted to do were sinful in any way, burying one's father is a rather good thing to do. The problem was that these things were placed above Jesus on their list. They couldn't fully serve Jesus if they weren't wholeheartedly willing to do anything and everything He asked. They had to be willing to give up their friends, families, and homes for Jesus, and they weren't, and Jesus knew that, He could see their hearts and their hearts were not in the right place. 

-Has following Jesus made life easier or harder for you? Why do you suppose that is? 

Absolutely easier. I mean harder in the sense that there are more struggles, and sometimes it is hard to be trying to be "not of this world" in a society that is so of this world. But in the end, it is honestly so, so, so much better with Jesus. Trusting Him with everything, I don't have to worry or be afraid. I don't know where I'll be in five years, I have no ten-year-plan. And to be honest, I like it better that way. I used to worry all the time, and Jesus gave me peace. He took away my worry, took away my fear, He gave me a future. I don't know exactly what it entails, but I know it'll be an awesomely epic adventure with Him and I wouldn't trade that for anything. Following Jesus is legitimately the best thing that has ever happened, or will ever happen, to me. I can't imagine a life without Him.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Day 12 - What, no extra shirt?!

Jesus sends the disciples off for an adventure - Luke 9:1-56

I just love that this study titles this day with Jesus sending the disciples on an adventure. Not a mission, not even a quest or adventure

It's cool because it's so true. With Jesus, this life isn't just living, it's an adventure every moment. It's full of peril at the hands of the bad guys, rescue by the handsome prince, the ultimate treasure, and the greatest gifts. 

Jesus doesn't say it will be easy. In fact, he promises it will be super hard. But it's okay, because He has overcome the world. We are called to take up our crosses, lose our lives, and deny ourselves. We're called to never be ashamed of our Jesus, and He will in turn not be ashamed of us. We must lose our lives to save them, give up our will and trust our King. 


-What do you think were the disciples' first thoughts when told to take nothing for their journey?

"Holy crap, what am I going to eat and wear, and how am I going to sleep without a blanket?"

After that initial freak-out, they were probably pretty confused. There are "basic necessities" we feel we can't live without, and they probably felt a little deprived. Maybe they didn't understand why they couldn't have these things, because there is nothing inherently sinful in or about them. But, per usual, there was more to the situation than that, and also as usual, Jesus knew best. 

-How hard is it for you to live without the "essentials?" What do you think lies behind the belief that you need all the "stuff" in your life?

I've never really tried, but I think it'd be pretty hard. I mean it's hard enough to give up the extras - clothes, new technologies, etc. I think there's partially just a belief that we do need that stuff, fed by the society surrounding us. We're surrounded by a society constantly striving to have more, never content, never satisfied. And it's nice to be comfortable, it's easy to be drawn in by the "need for more."

-What is it in your life that might be an idol of dependence for you? How hard would it be for you to let go of it today? Why?

Probably my phone. I have it with  me constantly. It's my timer, alarm clock, notepad, and most importantly, means to contact friends and family. I don't know how life would work without it. 

-Trusting God to provide for our basic needs is easy, but what about the deeper needs like relationships, careers, or the future? Are you dependent on God for all things, some things, or nothing? Why?

Honestly, I think it's easier for me to trust God with relationships, careers, and the future. Those things aren't as tangible. God providing money for me is more tangible, it's a physical need of a tangible things, but my future is more ambiguous. 
God has really helped me in the past months, though. I've been able to really stop worrying about money, not completely, but mostly. I just totally trust that He'll provide, my basic needs are met, and way over. God has shown me what He wants me to do after college and earning money wont' be part of that plan, so I know He'll provide money to pay college loans, because I'll be doing what He wants me to do. 
So I think I"m dependent on God in most things, slowly being transformed to trusting Him in all things. 

-The disciples are given power to proclaim the good news to the surrounding area; they are essentially ambassadors for Christ. What fears keep you from being an ambassador for Him?

I'm afraid of people. Their response. I tell myself I'm afraid that they won't accept Jesus, but there's, to be entirely honest here, a part of me that's afraid of what they'll think of me. A part that's afraid they'll think less of me for believing in "that religious stuff." But that part of me is utterly prideful, totally sinful, and definitely a Satan-scheme. It's one that needs to go, and only Jesus can take it. 
Also I think I'm afraid, a little, of failing. Of trying to share who Jesus is and the awesome things He has done and it coming out wrong, my excitement over how awesome Jesus is being misinterpreted (I get misinterpreted a lot. It's a problem) and Jesus' name not being glorified. 

-Can you trust God for the way people will either receive or reject your sharing of the gospel?

I'm slowly learning to. I have to give that up and remember that I'm not in control, this isn't my life anymore, it's all part of Jesus' plan and He works in spite of us and our failings.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 11 - Going public

Faith and humility - Luke 8:41-56

If we but have faith, the mountains can be moved, chains loosed, captives set free. We just have to trust and believe that Jesus can do anything. "Trust and obey/for there's no other way/to be happy in Jesus/than to trust and obey." Sing the song, hum the tune, now believe it to be true.

The woman did. The sick woman whom no doctor could help. She'd been bleeding for twelve years, and she desperately wanted to be free. Unlike many who were willing to just test the waters of Jesus' power, she fully believed Jesus to be capable of healing her. So sure of this was she, that all she needed was to touch the hem of His cloak.

She thought it'd go unnoticed, that she could melt back into the crowds and be secretly healed. But Jesus knew. And He told her, her faith had healed her.

I can't think of another inventive way to say Questions...

-Why do you think the woman did not want Jesus to know she had touched Him?

This study hypothesizes that she was "fearful to ask for help - fearful of Jesus, fearful of embarrassment, perhaps fearful that he might refuse."
While this may very well be the case, I have another hypothesis. And since this is all speculatory, here go my thoughts.
Maybe she was humble. Jesus said, "your faith has healed you." She obviously had great faith that Jesus could heal her, and if she believed that He could heal her, it logically follows, especially with His pattern of healing people, that He would heal her. So why would she be afraid He'd refuse? Maybe she recognized her sin, how unworthy she was of His gift of healing, and that held her back. Maybe she felt so unworthy of going up to Jesus and asking to be healed, realized she didn't deserve to be healed, and that kept her back.

-Do you think Jesus' delay from helping Jairus was intentional?

I don't think Jesus was thinking in, "if I wait and talk to this lady, then Jairus' daughter will die, and then I'll get to display my awesome power and raise her from the dead." I think Jesus was just serving. He was serving the woman, and then He served Jairus. He knew the girl would die because Jesus knows everything, but that's because He can see the whole plan of life from start to finish, He doesn't see it in the same linear manner we perceive life. He sees the big picture, we only see the pixels. So I don't think it was an intentional, conscious thought that He wanted the daughter to die, I think Jesus was just doing His thing, and that included raising her from the dead.

-Why would Jesus was Jairus to wait?

Because waiting builds patience and strengthens our faith. In our own lives, Jesus often does not give us the things we ask for right away. Sometimes it's because they're bad things we shouldn't have, and sometimes it's because it's not the right time. It wasn't the right time to heal the daughter, it was the right time to heal the woman. Jairus' faith was strengthened because he had to be patient and trust that Jesus knew best, even thought it seemed problematic at the time.

-If you could have Jesus heal anything without anyone's knowing, what would it be?

Anything? Well. Everything! Hah.
On a large scale - I'd want slavery ended. But that's not really a I guess I'd want hate healed. I'd want broken hearts healed. I'd want whatever makes people willing to treat other human beings with such contempt healed. I'd want this world to actually operate on love.
Small scale, I don't know for sure. I mean I want my little brother healed, but I want people to know about that! That's the thing, I think I'd want everyone to know about the healing. Maybe private things, like addictions or something, I don't know.

-Why is faith so important to Jesus?

It's the base of everything. If we don't have faith, we don't have life in Jesus. The New Testament preaches faith in just about every chapter. Because we don't see Jesus, we must have faith He is there. And by having faith, it shows we trust Him. We give Him our lives, our love, through faith, and that's what He wants, our hearts.

-Why is humility so important to Jesus? Why is humility so important to faith?

Because we have to realize and recognize our own puniness on the grand scale of everything. We have to realize that we don't deserve Jesus' gift, because when we understand how unworthy and broken we are, we can begin to understand the extent of His love. We have to be humble, because Jesus is perfect and we are dust.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Day 10 - A humble submission.

Jesus forgives much - Luke 7:36-50

Jesus is getting dinner with the pharisees. They're probably decked out in their fine pharisee regalia, proud to be looking so good and proud that they were deemed so important that Jesus got dinner with them. They're also probably trying to find more ways to judge and condemn Jesus, because they didn't like how often His loving compassionate nature showed up their legalism. 

Then a woman comes in and kneels at Jesus' feet, pouring perfume on His feet, kissing them, and weeping. And she wasn't just any woman, she was a "woman who lived a sinful life," which I'm pretty sure means prostitute. And the pharisees get their panties in quite a wad at this one, how could Jesus allow Himself to be touched by someone so unclean? "If only he knew who she is and what she does, he'd never allow himself to be so close to her, let alone touched!" they whisper to each other. 

Jesus hears them, of course, and He tells them about love and forgiveness. This woman was, granted, "very sinful." She had done many sinful things, but that meant that she had also been forgiven much. And because she had been forgiven so much, she understood the freeing gift she had been given, and loved Jesus so much more. 

"Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little," said Jesus.

"Perhaps if we were able to feel the weight of the sin that was lifted off her shoulders, we would weep as well."

Oh how great being freed from our burdens is. 

Question timeee

-How does your response to forgiveness compare to this woman's response?

It absolutely pales in comparison. My response to Jesus' forgiveness is not nearly grateful, humble, or just in utter awe of His love enough. I get to tempted into thinking "I haven't done any 'really big' sins." And in that thought, I don't get to recognize how much I have been given. It's something I've actually been thinking and praying about a lot recently, but this passage really showed me how much I'm not thanking Jesus. It shouldn't just be a recognition of how much He did for us, it should be a on-our-knees, weeping, totally humble, heartfelt cry of gratitude. Because we haven't just been forgiven, we've been freed from death. We has been given life when we deserved a cross. 

-Who do you most identify with in this story: Simon the Pharisee, the woman weeping at Jesus' feet, or someone at the table simply taking it all in? Why?

I think at this point, I'm in between someone just sitting at the table and the woman at Jesus' feet. Definitely closer to just being an observer, but growing closer to being the woman. That's how I want to be, though, and that's how I'm asking God to change me, because every day I should just be in utter awe of how much He loves me and how great the freedom He has given me is. 

-In what ways do you struggle to receive God's forgiveness for sins you've committed in your past? As it relates to your life, in what ways do you put a limit upon Jesus' mercy?

You know who's really good at lies, deception, twisting truths, making you feel guilty and never letting you forget a single thing you've done wrong? Satan. That's his sick little game. Everytime you're getting a bit down, feeling like you've failed, or just having a moment of dwelling in your own selfish world and letting everything seem way worse than it is...Satan pounces. He fills your mind with every little thing you've ever done. He reminds you of that time you messed up, that failure, that sin, that time you totally disappointed God, that moment when, oh  man, you really screwed up. How could you do that? How could you be so bad? Oh man, how could you do that to God? How dare you? You're worthless, you suck. How could you? You're too bad. You can't be forgiven, not this time. How can you even say God loves you? Does He? I mean...look what you've done. And if He does love you, He still remembers all those times you seriously messed up. He knows you failed, you know you failed, and don't you forget it. 
Yeah. That's what Satan likes to do. Down the rabbit hole we fall, with no bottom and no end, spiraling, the past flying at you from the walls, oozing out of the cracks, reminding you of all those times, all those time you failed. 
Satan really likes to get us when we're down and make it hard to stand back up. That's where I struggle. I fear failure, I don't want to disappoint God, and it's easy to look back at my sins and beat myself up about it, shame myself for thinking or doing those things, and tell myself I'm too much of a failure, I've messed up too badly this time.

-What does this passage communicate to us about Jesus?

The great part of the story. The truth, that we can never mess up to badly, fail to many times, or be "too bad" for Jesus to forgive us and love us. That He will always stoop down and wipe away our tears, pick us back up, and love us. But we need, also, to recognize how much He has loved and forgiven us, and humbly bow before Him as we thank Him. Jesus forgives everyone and frees us from our burdens of sin (and if we think they are small, then our pride is a far bigger burden than we'd realized). His love knows no bounds.

Basically...Jesus rocks :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cold Concrete and Brilliant Blues

I have a new favorite movie, it's so simple, and yet so beautiful, like so many things in life. And it's only five minutes and one second long, how convenient!

You can watch the short film here.

 Their description of the movie says, "A man, confined to a door-less, window-less cube is helped to freedom by a mysterious stranger. He finds that the ultimate source of freedom is found within and explores what his response should be to this liberating gift."

With my worldview, I saw this movie as a beautiful, simple rendition of Christ's love freeing us, and I think that's what the movie-makers intended as well.

"Freedom!" an unknown, unseen voice cries. Through a hole in the door comes a sign painted with the word "Liberte," clattering to the floor at the feet of the startled prisoner. He picks it up, confused, and the hand reaches through the door. The hand is in color, while the room, man, and sign are all black and white. The mysterious hand turns the sign around, causing it to point downwards, towards the prisoner's freedom.

The mysterious stranger's shirt-sleeve is red, which we later see is the same color as the prisoner's jumpsuit. This shows that the stranger used to be a prisoner too. Once he was given his freedom, he went on to spread the word and help free the other prisoners.

After removing his floor, the prisoner finds a secret door, which opens up to pure light, which gives life and color to his drab surroundings. He goes through the hole, and comes back in color, puts his floor tiles through, and they come up as grass. His dim lamp becomes a brilliant sun-like source of light. Finally, he strips part of his wall off, and when he plasters it back up, it becomes a doorway to trees, wind, sun, a free, alive, vibrant world. He walks through the door to his freedom, and his concrete prison cell disintegrates.

All that is left is the Liberte sign, which the freed man picks up. Suddenly he hears a cry from the other side of the bushes. Walking through, the man's jaw drops and the sign falls from his hand in shock, the field before him is full of cube-like concrete prisons just like his own.

A look of comprehension accompanied with a smile slowly grow on the man's face. He stoops, picks up the sign, and runs towards the buildings, ready to set the other prisoners free.

That last scene is my favorite, the last few seconds of the film - running towards the other prisoners, filled with joy to share with them the freedom he has found.

It's so beautiful. So simple, so pure, so awesome.

See, we are the prisoners. We're trapped in a little gray cube, windowless, lifeless. We know we aren't free, but we don't know what we're missing. Then someone comes along and shows us freedom. We might not get it at first, but they turn the sign around and point us in the right direction. At first, maybe we don't know what to do with this, but we explore and learn, and slowly our drab prison becomes colorful, full of light and life. And finally, when we're ready, it opens up to real freedom and our prison walls fall down.

We're just so happy to be free, to feel the soft air on our faces, feel the sweet grass beneath our toes, feel the warm sun gently brush our faces. But when we start to look around, we discover we weren't the only prisoners, that there are many who still need to be set free.

And so we go. Not because we have to, but because we want to. We've been freed from our prisons and we want others to be free as well.

And that's the gospel. That we have been freed from our prisons of sin through love is the first, beautiful, awesome, incredible and unbelievable part, but there's a part two. Part two is that we, in turn, tell others of this love to free them from their solitary confinement by sin.

It's not just about us being freed and loved and then going on our merry way, receiving a free gift of love and then living life however we want. We should be dedicating the rest of our lives to, in turn, freeing others.

It's not an obligation, it's not like we have to tell X number of people about Jesus to fulfill the requirement and get to go live our lives. Our life is to tell people about Jesus, because He is just absolutely wonderful and we want to.

That's why I love this film. Because of the little smile on the man's face as he goes to tell his fellow prisoners about the freedom he has been given.

I love feathers

Day 09 - Well-built sandcastles.

Build your house on the rock - Luke 6:46 - 7:35

This passage starts with a parable - building a life on a sandy foundation vs. a solid foundation. We're called to build our lives on the most solid foundation - Jesus. If we truly place all our trust in Him, when the storms come, our house won't fall. This doesn't mean our physical or earthly house, body, possessions. We are, in fact, promised that those things will fall away, that the world will destroy us, hurt us, war against us. That isn't the house that lasts, what lasts is our spiritual house, our soul, when we place everything - even our very lives - in Jesus' hands, He promises that He is watching out for us, that He has our best interests at heart. We don't know what that will look like, but we trust that He does know best and trust His promise that He'll never fail us or leaves us, and that He does love us. So we give Him our lives and our hearts and build on His solid rock.

Thinking and Questioning -

-As you reflect on the decisions you've made in your life up until now, on what foundations have you built your life?

That's been a shifting process my whole life, really. When I was younger I'd say my life was built on my parent's foundations. Since theirs are built on God, that was a good starting point. As I got older and began to really think through believing in Jesus for myself, rather than just accepting what my parents had always told me, my foundation changed. I think it got a bit sandier at that point because I didn't believe God loved me, so I couldn't build a life on Him. As I grew to understand, accept, and believe in God's love, I began to want to give my life to Him. But I've always struggled with worrying, with thinking about what others think, with wanting to be successful in some more earthly manner. Recently, though, Jesus has become my foundation. I still want to be successful, but in an entirely different way. I want to be successful by His standards, which are totally different from the world's. But I slip off that rock and lose bricks from my house so often as I'm tempted by the world's standards of success and happiness. How I want to live my life doesn't seem rational, logical, or financially sound. It isn't...according to the world. That will always be a struggle, but I think the key is giving our lives up 100%+ to Jesus, being utterly willing to do whatever He calls us to do, and accepting His forgiveness, love, and grace when we falter and fail.

-Jesus mentions floods and torrents as a metaphor for hardship, pain, and sudden disaster. Reflect on the was you've dealt with these storms in your life. how has God been faithful to keep your foundations firm?

There have definitely been some storms that knocked my foundation clean away. I guess that means my foundations weren't really built on God then. Many of last year's storms had me a bit shaky, but Jesus gave me the strength to keep trusting He had a plan and that His plan is good. I know I can't do it on my own strength, but I do really trust Him where I can't understand.

-The Words like security, firm, solid, and trustworthy come to mind when we think about our hope in Christ. Are there any ideas, words, or thoughts that come to mind when you think about Jesus as the foundation of your life?

Comfort. Friend. Father. Good. Love. Scary. Awesome. Powerful. Beautiful. Hard. Strong. Unknown. Adventure. Exciting.

-The parables that Jesus uses to illustrate principles of the kingdom seem simple on the surface, yet some people don't seem to get their meaning. Why do you think that is?

I think often people don't want to. They find it easier to believe in a wrathful God than a good God. They don't want to accept that Jesus loves them because then they have to give their lives to Him and build their lives on a new, sometimes difficult, but totally worth-it foundation. I think many people's minds and hearts are closed. But I know God wants everyone to know Him, and I know He loves everyone, so I know He does everything He can to show them His love and then let them make that decision for themselves. God wants our love, but He won't force us to love Him.

-As it relates to Christ's lordship, in what areas of your life does Jesus reign and in what areas is there a struggle for control?

In the past I've really struggled with my future, where I'm going and what I'm doing. Fearing to fail Him, afraid I won't do enough with my life. I have to give that fear up to Him, and He's helping me a lot! I'm not afraid of graduation or after-college anymore, God has shown me some things He wants me to do and mostly just helped me to become willing to do whatever He wants. The biggest struggle for control is over my family. There are just issues and fears and I can't give them up sometimes, I want to fix it all myself and become so overwhelmed with the fact that I can't and so afraid that fixing it isn't in God's plan. I just need to trust, trust that He knows best, and that He loves my family way more than I do, way more than I could ever imagine. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day 08 - Love wins.

Kindness to the ungrateful and wicked. Luke 6:1-45

You know what I love? Perfect timing. When that sermon, talk, chapter, song, or Bible study chapter fit so perfectly into what you're going through, struggling with, or contemplating at that point in life. It's so wonderful. Divine coincidence, my favorite. It's just such a clear picture that there's a bigger plan, larger than we can realize, how everything fits together so perfectly that it couldn't be random or happenstance. 

Surprisingly enough, today was one of those days. I started reading the text and just had to sit back for a second because it was so, so perfect, and I loved it. 

Today is about love, not just the straightforward, logical kind, but the hard, possibly impossible kind. Loving your enemies. Whoo doggy! That's a toughie! But seriously. It is. I mean think of how easy it is to love friends, family, anyone who returns the love, or is at least nice. It's easy to love because you get love in return, its positive, you see the fruits of your labor. You want to make those people happy, so you love them because you care for them. But what about the difficult people, people you fight with, or even enemies. Yup. We're called to love them too. Even though there's a pretty good chance we won't see any fruits of our labor from that one, we're still called to love them. We'll probably never know the difference our kindness, compassion, and love made in their lives, but they'll know, and God will know, and that's all we need concern ourselves with. We're called to give to everyone, not just our friends, to be generous. Not just to give our food, money, and clothes to our friends in need, but to our enemies in need as well. That's hard, maybe not possible for us, but the good news is everything is possible with God. 

A verse that's been sticking out to me all day is John 16:33, "In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." 

We're going to be called to love hard people. We're probably also going to be hated, scorned, and abused (mentally, spiritually, physically, you name it), but that's not the point. The point is that this is not our home. We don't belong here, and we are here because it's where Jesus wants us, to be His light in a dark, sinful world. To put aside our own interests and focus on those around us, friends, frenemies, and enemies alike. 

Whew. Now that I've written a nice little essay...


-In what ways do you struggle with loving those who don't follow Jesus? How about those who are adamantly opposed to Him?

I mean some people are just hard to love. They're annoying or self-centered or just plain mean. Sometimes, too, it's frustrating to talk to people who are so stubbornly against Jesus. When people slander Jesus, that's hard too. I just feel so sad about it, Jesus doesn't deserve that. And then it makes me mad, because I don't want them to talk about Jesus that way! And then I think a little pride comes in when I also am secretly mad that they think of Jesus that way because it means they think I am a moron, they think badly of me.
Also it's hard to know how to love them. They don't want to talk about Jesus, its hard to give advice when everything links back to Jesus. I love people by serving them, giving gifts, listening, whatever, and if someone isn't receptive to that, I feel like I can't love them. But what I've realized is that I can't just love people with my love-language, I have to learn their language and love them that way too. 

-What is it about yourself or your sin that lies behind these feelings?

Whoops. I should probably start reading ahead before I keep answering questions in the wrong place. But yeah. Like I said before, pride. I think there's a part of me that just doesn't want people to think badly of me. It's frustrating that they think so negatively about Jesus because it means they think negatively about me. I want everyone to like me. I'm a bit of a people-pleaser. And sometimes, too, I'm just selfish. I'm tired of reaching out, I'm tired of getting out of my comfort zone, I'm tired of pouring into people and often seeing no results, and sometimes I just want to give up and focus on me. And that's definitely wrong too. 

-Everyone lends to those whom they think will pay them back. Jesus says to lend to those who can't or won't pay you back. What's your gut response to that?

Up until recently, my gut would be no. It's my money, I don't have much already, I need to keep it for me. But I've recently been able to let go of the necessity of money, and that is only by the grace of God, and though I'm not sure I'm 100% there yet, I think I"m getting to a place where I could, and would, just give it to them. Where my gut response would be "yes" because I know that I will always be provided for and needn't ever worry. 

-Who is it that you've been expecting a payback from?

Nothing monetarily or materially, but I definitely want and often expect to get love in return. I expect that if I pour into a friendship people will put the same (or at least some) effort back into me. And often, that doesn't happen. I need to let that go, and just give my time, love, and friendship to people with no expectations of return. 

-Where does loving enemies come into your prayer life? Who are the enemies you need to be praying for?

I don't think I have any personal enemies, per se, but there are still people who have hurt me and people who are just difficult to love/like in general. There are really horrible people that I don't personally know who need prayer, though, like dictators and war-lords and such. And I don't really think about it as often as I should, but they need prayer too. How awesome would it be if one of them gave their lives to Jesus? The whole world would have to notice! Also, there's just forgiving people who have hurt us, and praying for them even though they haven't exactly been nice. I like to ask God to bless people, even people who have hurt me, that's one way they come into my prayer life. 

-What does this passage communicate about Jesus?

Just how incredibly loving He is. I mean there's this part of me that thinks, "well they don't deserve love." But then I remember...neither do I. But I still get it, and so do they. If God can love me, God can love anyone. And He does, He love everyone. This passage really shows Jesus' heart of and for loving those who don't seem to deserve it. Jesus showed that ultimate example when He died on the cross for our sins, for the people who had just screamed to have Him murdered, for the executioner or whatever who had just beaten Him to a pulp, for the robber scoffing at Him from the cross nearby. Jesus loved everyone. What an awesome example! 

-What is God moving in you to confess, repent of, praise/thank Him for, believe, or do?
Hmmm. So like I said, this message hit home. But more because it went along with what I've been praying through/believing, rather than telling me what I've been doing wrong. I've felt very hurt by some...people...recently, and I can honestly say I am not and was not angry with them. I forgave them right away. And I don't say that to show how great and righteous I am, because I'm not, but to say that Jesus is absolutely amazing for allowing me to not be angry, to respond with love instead of retaliation, to just be nice back without wanting them to know how much I was hurt or expecting/demanding an apology. I believe Jesus allowed that, and I really am so thankful for it. He's really the very best person to have on our side :)

Day 07 - Are you willing?

Jesus heals the humble - Luke 5

Jesus does miraculous things - the disciples catch a boatload (see what I did there?) of fish after a night of fruitless (meatless?) fishing, a man with leprosy is healed, a paralyzed man able to walk, and sins forgiven. The big question of the passage, though, is, "are you willing?" It's not a question of can Jesus heal, it's a question of if He will. I think this is an approach of humility. It's easy to demand things of Jesus, but really we should just be presenting our requests, knowing He is powerful enough to do anything (He is all-powerful, after all), and then trust that He will do what is best. Ask Him if He is willing, not tell Him what He has to do.


-In what ways do you struggle with feeling or believing that God is for you and not against you?

I guess just when things don't go "right," or "according to plan." When circumstances aren't going my way, when I feel like life sucks, it's so easy to fall into a pit of destructive thoughts that God doesn't care. It's easy to look at all the sin and brokenness in my life, realize how unworthy I am, and instead of marveling in the beauty of the cross, crawl into a pit of despair at the hopelessness of sin and tell myself I'm not good enough for God to ever care. But that's not true. Those are the lies of Satan, piled high and repeatedly, saying, "you don't deserve love, you are nothing, how could God ever want anything good for you? How can you be so prideful as to think He could possibly ever be for you? You are nothing." But that is the ugliest twist of truth into a hideous lie. Yes, we're nothing, yes, we're unworthy, but that's the beginning of the story, not the end.

-There was no shortage of people coming to Jesus looking for healing, yet this man was successful in getting an audience. Why?

I'm really not exactly sure, but I think it was because his heart was different. I would guess there were lots of people jumping on the bandwagon and asking for healing because everyone was, because it couldn't hurt to ask, right? But not really believing it. Or they thought they deserved healing, deserved attention from Jesus. Whatever the reasons, I think the leper was different. He didn't questions Jesus' authority as so many around him were doing. He didn't make any demands. He made a request, "if you are willing." He put it all in Jesus' hands and trusted Him completely.

-The opposite of coming to God in humility is coming with a demanding sense of selfish entitlement. Where does this come from and how would you cultivate humility in your prayer life?

Sometimes I wonder if the root of all evil is pride. I know in my own life I can trace just about everything back to pride in some manner. I think a selfish sense of entitlement comes from pride, which comes from a sinful nature, and is cultivated by continual sin, those around us, and Satan's fight against us. I know for me, I've been praying for humility and just for God to really help me overcome pride. I also think it is important to be willing ourselves, willing for God to do what He wants to do, according to His perfect plan, and trust that He knows best. No matter what, He knows best.

-Why do you think Jesus says "be clean" rather than "be well?"

Because being physically well doesn't have as much eternal significance as being forgiven. It's Jesus' love that saves us, saves our souls, not our bodies. In this world we'll have trouble, pain, sorrow, etc, but it's okay because Jesus has overcome this world with His love. I think He's showing that He cares about eternal, not earthly, things.

-If you could have Jesus make one thing "clean" in your life, what would it be?

My pride and self-centeredness.

-What does this passage communicate to you about Jesus?

That He is epicly loving and willing. That He cares about us more than we could ever imagine and has our best interests at heart because He loves us.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Feather, Fly, Free, Faith

Break Me

Cracked, broken
Healing, whole
Fallen, free

Day 06 - On a mission.

Jesus reads His missions statement - Luke 4:14-44

That's a lotta 4's...

Basically Jesus gets up to read scripture in the synagogue, in His hometown of Nazareth. He reads out, “the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then, Jesus announces that day the scripture had been fulfilled. He told them all He was the savior of the world, the Messiah they had been waiting for. 

"Jesus was making a bold, seemingly blasphemous, and potentially suicidal statement...Jesus' statement had all of the ambiguity of, 'I am the Messiah, and this is what the messianic mission is about. Any questions?'"

Oh man. This is intense. 

Diggin' Deeper: 

-From what Jesus reads, how do you see the balance in His mission between caring for the poor and proclaiming the good news, i.e., evangelism?

Jesus' "mission statement" is about freedom. It all ties together. Proclaiming the good news is freeing, preaching the gospel of Grace and Love freed, and frees, the slaves of sin, those captivated by the world. Jesus just cares so much for His people, for His children. He cares so much for the lost, the broken, the oppressed, sick, poor, enslaved. And we're all slaves, in one way or another. Maybe not physically (though there are so many who are), but we are slaves to sin. Jesus comes to set the captives free, from the bondage of sin, from the punishment of death. 

-What seems to be the overarching theme of your life? What's our mission statement and how well does it line up with the heart of Jesus?

Love. Freedom. Being a servant. Adoption. Fighting for justice, especially for slaves (both physically and mentally, I guess). Helping broken and lost people find their Healer, Savior, Father, and Friend. And it all comes back to love, that's where my heart is - loving people, and making a difference in their lives by showing them Jesus. 
I really hope my life theme lines up with Jesus' heart. I really do. I feel so passionate about loving people and serving, but I know I need to grow so much, and continue giving it all up to God. I want my life to be all about Jesus and spreading His gospel of Love, I want to grow to be as much like Jesus as I can, and I know only God can do that in my life. I'm not capable of anything on my own. 

-How would people describe what you're all about?

I've been told before that I have a "good heart" and am "passionate about the right things." I think most people know I'm passionate about adoption and human trafficking, but it can't just be about being known as that kind of person, it can't just be about being, it has to be about doing. Having a "good heart" is all fine and dandy, but what really matters is what that "good heart" does. I pray that God grows and shapes and changes me into the kind of person He wants me to be, to be more like Him, loving, servant-hearted, compassionate. Only by His strength and grace. 

-Sometimes saying "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you life" would be received a lot better if an act of compassion were able to illustrate the claim. How could you show an act of compassion to someone to illustrate the claim that God loves them?

Honestly what's been on my heart a lot recently is really, truly listening and caring. I can't believe I'm going to reference Fight Club two posts in a row, but here goes:
Narrator: When people think you're dying, they really, really listen to you, instead of just …
Marla Singer: … instead of just waiting for their turn to speak?
Narrator: Yeah. Yeah
Pretty much that's how I don't want to be. That I care what they have to say, not that I'm just waiting for them to take a breath so I can interject my oh-so-important can't-live-without opinion or thoughts upon them. And maybe I do have something that just seems so incredibly important to say, but it can probably wait (aside from, "there's a massively creepy and incredibly frightening monster behind you...RUN!"). Listening, and really listening, with questions to show you're paying attention and care, can mean so much. That's what I've been thinking about a lot recently, just a way to show you care for someone is just to remember details of their life, follow-up, listen to their thoughts, struggles, whatever, and be there for them. Be someone people can go to, be someone they can share their sorrows and joys with, show you care. I believe that can truly illustrate compassion. If you prove you care for someone, then you have the "right" to tell them that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives, even when life is hard. Because they know you know what's going on, they know you aren't just saying that because you "have to," but because it's truly what you believe, for them and for yourself. Did that make any sense? I kinda ramble a lot...

-What might be some beliefs, lies, or misconceptions about the poor and oppressed that keep you from engaging in good works?

I mean there are a number of stereotypes about the poor, especially the homeless, that they somehow deserve where they are. There's an idea that people in those positions are there because they didn't work hard enough, were lazy, or did something bad to merit the short stick in the gamble of life. There's this crazy idea that if you help people, they'll just keep wanting help, and will never get out of the rut they're in, so the clear solution is to never help anyone. I think those misconceptions bar many people from giving and helping. But I honestly believe we should just help people. We shouldn't worry about whether or not their story is legit, we shouldn't be concerned about what they'll spend the $5 on, we should just give and trust Jesus to do the rest. If we have food, we should share it, if we have extra clothes or blankets, we should share them, we should give our time and resources. I'm not saying I'm super good at doing all these things, but it's definitely a goal.

-What is clear about Jesus as we read this passage?

Jesus' beautiful heart for the suffering and needy. As Jesus said at some point in one of the Gospels, the healthy don't need a doctor, Jesus came to save the sick. Jesus came to give life, freedom, and joy as it can only be found in Him.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Day 05 - It is written.

Faithfulness under temptation. Luke 4:1-13

Jesus was in the desert for 40 days without food. That's awhile. When He got out, He was weak, tired, and probably really wanted to eat. So Satan figured that'd be the opportune moment to tempt Jesus, to try to get Him away from God. 

"If we expect to grow, we should expect hard times, we should expect God's Word to always prove true, and we should expect to be tempted to think otherwise."

Questions, Questions, Questions...

-Why would Satan choose a time when Jesus was weak physically to tempt Him?

Satan figured that'd be the best time for Jesus to give in and give up. Since He was physically weak, Satan probably figured Jesus was mentally weak as well, and it would be the perfect time to break His will and separate Him from God. 

-What temptations come to you when you are physically weak?

I think when I'm physically exhausted, I'm most prone to give in to complaining and being very self-focused. 

-In what ways can you identify with Jesus' temptation (fame, power, food, or material things)?

Of these above I think the greatest temptation is just material things. Especially in our society, it's so easy to want more and feel fully justified in getting more. So often we're working a job we hate to get a bigger house, a nicer car, and to have the best and most current appliances and electronic devices. It reminds me of Fight Club, "advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy sh** we don't need."
I mean, let's be honest, compared to the rest of the world we all live pretty darn comfortably here. But we could always be living more comfortably. I'd like to have a car. I'd like a smart phone. I'd like more clothes (what girl doesn't, and Pinterest sure isn't helping!). We live in a consumerist society, and material things are most certainly a huge temptation. 

-In what areas have you failed to resist temptation. Why do you think that was?

This blog is going to become a broken record, isn't it? Failed resistance to temptation: complaining, gossiping, jealousy. I let myself "not care" what God things, or "ignore" the voice in my head saying, "Katy, don't say that, don't think that, don't wish you looked like them or had the things they have or were as well-liked as they." I choose to let it slide, I cover up that whisper in my hear, reverberating through my mind, and I say those things because in that moment they make me feel better. I complain, because in that moment, it's relieving. I look at other people and wish I had what they have, looked like they look, had the talents they have, whatever, because somehow in my head that is a solution. I focus on me for those moments, and then later, acknowledge my sins and realize how greatly those momentarily "relieving" or "pleasurable" things were really detrimental. 

-Jesus emerged from the desert ready to go where the Father would lead Him. How willing are you to go into the desert to prepare for God's calling on your life?

To be honest, I'm very willing. I used to be super worried about my future and what I would do (how is an art and journalism major supposed to adopt and support kids from around the world???), but God has helped me so much to be willing to go, do, say, be whatever, wherever, and whoever He wants. I'm excited for whatever (hopefully) crazy-awesome adventure He has planned for my life. 

-Having trials in our lives isn't something we look forward to. What is your current attitude about trials and hardships in your life?

Well, surprisingly enough, trials and hardships are, well, hard. And they suck. And sometimes, it's miserable. But without them, we cannot grow. I am glad for hardships and trials, because I've seen myself grow because of them. Without trials, would we really rely on God to be there for us, to provide for us? Faith is strengthened by hardships, I fully believe that. So, my attitude towards them is thanks. I don't necessarily like it in the moment, or right afterwards, but down the road, looking back, those trials and hardships that seemed like huge chasms we could never get across have have bridges of love strung across, Jesus getting us across and holding us together along the way.

-What hardships have caused growth in your life recently?

As with previous questions, I reserve the right to not disclose some details on my nicely public blog. So talk to me if you want to know all (except not all) the deep dark secrets and struggles of my life. But in a broad overview: family, parents, friends, freshman year stuff, and money. 
I'll talk about the money "hardship" for a bit because that's not super personal. I've always thought it would be great to be rich, or at least well-off. Life would just be so much easier, right? Recently I remember thinking to myself, "I'm really glad I'm poor" (poor being a relative term, depending on who I'm being compared and contrasted with). I was shocked I'd had that thought, and then realized it was absolutely true. I'm really glad I don't have money, because I have learned to rely on God, and it's been awesome. He has provided for me, with scholarships, wonderful grandparents, and by helping me be content. I'd so rather have to rely on God to provide then have tons of money and not get to learn about His great provision for His children. 

-In following Jesus' example, how can you make the scripture more integral to your life?

I think first is just reading, and not just reading, but studying and analyzing and praying over and pondering the Bible. And honestly, the more you get of it, the more you want. It's like drugs! It gets so exciting, reading something and seeing where it connects somewhere else, seeing the intricate web of Jesus' love laced through the pages. It's beautiful. And the more you read the more you understand about Jesus, and the more you want to be like Him, so the more His word becomes a living, breathing, active part of you life.