Friday, September 30, 2011

What Could Have Been:

2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

I've had the honor of meeting some really incredible men and women over the course of the past few weeks who have really reminded me why I am a follower of Christ.  

Men and women who's lives have been radically changed from darkness into light, from dysfunction into healing, from brokenness into new hope.

It never ceases to amaze me when I hear their stories.  The chains of addictions wrapped around their lives.  Addiction to drugs, sex, relationships.  Addiction to approval, alcohol, and material things.  Broken hearts, destitute spirits, and hopeless futures.  It's amazing to hear the incredible stories of how God took their hurts and their shame...and brought them into something new.

The old has gone, the new has come. 

It reminds me of the power of the love of God through Jesus.  It reminds me of the hope to which I cling.  It reminds me that there is some real power behind the Spirit that is living inside of my heart. 

But it also saddens me.  

I'm saddened because at times, I take my story so lightly.

Sometimes I forget what a privilege it is to be living in the "new".  I've been in relationship with Jesus for most of my adult life.  Having made that choice, and accepting that gift, I've been doing my best to live a life guided my God's Spirit at work in me.  Offering me hope, freedom, and joy ever since.

There is something incredible about that.  There is something incredible to think of who I am today and imagine what could have been if Jesus had not captured my heart. 

My story should cause me to celebrate every day at what should have been...but isn't. 

Thank you Jesus that you enter my present each and every single day, and that you rescue my future. 

The old has gone, the new has come.  May we never take that lightly. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Heart Me: Loving Yourself

Love your neighbor as yourself.

From the beginning of time there has been a deficit of love in our world.  There has been a deficit of how man loves his God.  There has been a deficit of how man loves one another.  And there has also been a deficit of how man loves himself. 

For this reason, these five words hold such powerful insight into the human psyche.  The more I learn about the discipline of psychology, the more I am amazed with how well God knows His people.  There is proof of that knowledge within these words. 

The beauty of this verse is that with two words God is relaying a foundational truth that many times goes ignored: “As Yourself”.  You cannot love others, until you have learned to love yourself.  I meet so many Christians who struggle continually with this concept.  I meet Christians who have wrestled with the concept of loving themselves because their lives have been filled with self-denial, self-hatred and self-loathing.  Christians who have never been taught to love themselves.  Christians who mistakenly thought they had found some solace in the words of the Bible that taught them to deny their self, to put others before them, and to consider their selves as nothing.  There is tragedy in this type of degradation. 

This type of “denial” is a dangerous misconception.  Masking self-loathing with self-denial is a dangerous road.  Confusing humility with a lack of self worth causes more harm than good.  We are called to love ourselves, to enjoy how God has made us, to delight in our uniqueness, our value, and our worth.  God delights in us, and we also are to delight in who He has created us to be.  We are to love ourselves. 

You see, God is not calling us to deny who he has made us to be, but rather, who He has not made us to be.  To deny our sinful nature with its temptations and its downfalls.  To deny our selfishness and our stubbornness.  To deny our lust, our pride, our idolatry.  To deny the things that separate us from God.  And only those things.

Christians, we are called to love ourselves- just as God loves us.  We are called to delight in ourselves as He delights in us.  And when we do, we will find that gates to loving others have never been so easy to walk through.  We will find that loving others becomes so real, so genuine, and so complete.  We will find that in that beautiful exchange of love between our self and our God, we find the strength and motivation to exchange that same love with our neighbors. 

Lord, give us the ability to love ourselves as you love us- in order that we may then learn how to truly love others. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Life Happens: Simple Birthday Thoughts

Romans 14:8
If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

--CT Studd

In just a couple hours the clock will strike and it will be September 18th...the day I was born. 

As a child, birthday were always a joyful time.  Looking forward to a day to celebrating ME.  I'm sure you can relate.  For most children, birthdays hold special memories, a time when all the world around you stops to put the spotlight on you. 

As I get older, birthdays hold a different, more profound meaning for me.  Slowly, God is showing me the greater joy that comes from taking the spotlight off of me and placing it on Him.  Let me explain.   

As this day approaches, I realize that another year of my life has passed In college, our chancellor never allowed us to forget the reality check by CT Studd, reminding us that life was short.  That phrase sticks with me, and is especially ringing loud in my mind today.  Another year has passed...not that it's any surprise, but the reality that life is short is beginning to sink in- in a serious way.  

You see, Life happens...whether or not you are living it.  Today I am struck with the challenge to live my life, and to live it well.  For me, living it well means nothing less than a life devoted to a God who devoted His life to me. 

And yes, that may sound so selfless and sacrificial, but you know what- it's not.  When you really dig deep you realize that life does not get more fulfilling, purposeful, and abundant until you are truly living it for Him.  Like John Piper says, there is something hedonistic about that kind of sacrifice.  

In seeking to live a life for Christ, I am ultimately choosing to live my life in the most fulfilled way possible.  I am choosing to live a life in which true joys are to be found.  To me, there's nothing much sacrificial about that.  Because at the end of the day (and of life) what I am gaining, makes what I am giving seem entirely meaningless...compared to knowing Jesus and finding myself in Him.    

So, these are my simple thoughts as my birthday approaches...I want to remember to live. 

To live a life the honors Jesus, to live a life that magnifies Him, and to live a life aligned ever so closely to His will...His good, pleasing, and perfect will. 

Life happens.  Are you truly living? 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Fires and Floods:

Psalm 31:15
My times are in your hand...

The past 30 days has been quite an adventure, to say the least.  Natural disasters have showed their face all across the country at large and showed us humans who is boss.

It's a little intimidating at times, when nature takes an unexpected turn.  It's even more intimidating when that turn is closer to home.

Through the recent disaster's we have been facing in Central Pennsylvania there has been much tragedy.  This morning I heard a story of a friend of a friend, whose life was taken through the past days of disaster. 

It's heart-breaking taking in the details.  I'm sure that just a couple days ago this man was not thinking of his death...who is?  Who of us wakes up in the morning and wonders if today will be their last?  We don't realize that the end is near until it has found us...

For a moment, the stories of tragedy caused me to give in to some panic.  The reality is that you just never know.  You never know what day will be your last, or worse, the last for those you love.  Life is a difficult journey, with the giving of breath and the taking away.  When faced with the lack of control I really have in all of these things, I found myself with a storm of anxiety building inside my heart.

And then I realized something: God's not surprised by tragedy.

From the moment we take our first breath, the path before us is set.  Whether it's a road that we walk for 3 months, 45 years, or through the ripe age of 92...we each have our journey set before us.  A journey filled sometimes with joy, filled sometimes with pain, but one that is always filled with purpose.  Whether short, or long...foreseen or sudden, there will be a day that we will all come to the end of our road. 

For me, I find comfort in the fact that my journey is not my own.  My time here on earth is completely and entirely in the hands of a God who loves me and the ones I love.  My life is in his hands.

To make the most of this journey, there is no room for anxiety and panic...there is no time to waste thinking of the end.  There is only time to live, to love, to be present.  There is only time to hope, to heal, and to be available. 

Make the most of yours.