What If.

There are millions of people in the world. People with jobs, people with schedules, people that are busy. When was the last time you had the opportunity to sit and think for a while? Everyone has a schedule. Every second of every day is planned out. Appointments, sports, shopping, going to the movies, work, school–you name it. We try to plan our schedules in such a way that it will be time effective. Another word for that would be “overwhelming.” By the time the end of a day comes around, I think, “Where did my day go? I don’t remember any of it.”

Can you go through life without living it? Can you get so wrapped up in doing life that you forget what it’s all about?  For such a long time now, I’ve been tied to my planner. I look at what I’ve done as something to check off the list. I’ve come accustomed to looking for quantity, not quality.

Realizing this has made me think about changing my perspective on certain things. I want my life to count for something. I want someone’s life to be easier because of me. I want to have quality friends instead of a lot of them. I want to smile more and laugh until I cry. Wherever I am, I want to be 100% there. I don’t want any kind of circumstance, situation, or person determine my happiness. More than that, I don’t want to be happy. I want to have true joy. I want it to radiate from me so it becomes contagious. I want there to be a difference in my life. I want others to talk to me and wonder what is different. More than anything, I want the Lord to change me from the inside out. I want to lean on Him for everything.

I’ve spent my life investing time and effort into people who may or may not care about me in 5 years. I put the people that I care about as my top priority. Where do I place God? That’s a good question. Sometimes He’s a priority, but if I were to truly be honest, that’s not always the case. How sad is that? The creator of the Earth, the only one in the world who will love me no matter what I do, and the only one who will literally never leave me, I can’t find as little as 15 minutes a day to spend with him? That needs to change.

I want to be God’s hands and feet to the people around me. I want to live to serve Him. I want to help people. I want my life to be more than it is. I want to live a radical life of service to my King. What if, by looking at my life, I could show a little glimpse of the Lord through me? That is my ultimate goal.

Advertisements

I Have Come that You May Have Life, Life to the Fullest

Recently, I attended a retreat about renewal and revival. It was all about breaking the chains in our lives. It was very interesting to see the perspectives of others and things that they struggle with; many of them hit very close to home for me.

These are some of the verses that really inspired me.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 37:4

This is such an interesting verse because at first glance, you’d think, the desires of my heart? Okay, I can handle that. I’ll delight myself in you Lord, suure. But, it’s important to see that this verse isn’t simply referring to the Lord as a genie, but it’s talking about how if you delight yourself with the Lord, He will be changing your heart little by little until you become more like Him. Your desires will become His desires. By the time you love Him with all your heart, your desires will no longer be the same ones you have right now.

In 2 Timothy 3, it talks about the “lovers of self and lovers of money.” It’s interesting how true this was.. and still is today. Lovers of self–Uffda, that hurts. How true is that if you think about it. When you wake up in the morning, what is your first thought? Can I sleep more? Did you notice it? I. Can I sleep more? Let me continue on through my day. I get up. Take a shower. Why? So that I’ll feel good. Then, I spend more than an hour working on getting myself to look good–drying my hair, curling or straightening it, adding make-up, picking out my outfit, making sure my jewelry matches, picking out the right shoes, adding bobbypins to my hair, splashing on a little bit of perfume.. all this to make sure I am acceptable looking when I walk out the door. I pack my lunch, make sure all of my work is done for the day, put on my jacket, and walk out the door. This is usually the time I plan on spending with my Lord, but there just wasn’t enough time today. Maybe tomorrow.

How do I expect myself to grow as a Christian if I can’t even find 15-20 minutes a day to spend with Him? When I actually find that time, how much of the time am I 100% there? How much of that time is spent thinking about other things? How much of that time is praying for things about my life? How much of that time is spent selfishly asking the Lord for things that will better myself? How much of that time is spent telling the Lord how great He is to me? How much of that time is spent in silence.. waiting for Him to talk to me?

Convicting.

In Isaiah 30:15, the Lord asked Solomon what he wanted. He could have asked for anything. He asked for wisdom. Wisdom, to be able to discern between right and wrong. What would you ask for?

I was really asking myself that question. What would I ask for? I want to say that I would ask for wisdom.. for a more compassionate heart.. for something that is very selfless. Unfortunately, I’m not totally sure that’s the case. But, how cool is that that he asked for wisdom. That is actually what I want.

Romans 12:1-2 is as follows:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

People won’t do anything unless they trust that what they’re doing is a good cause. What aren’t you trusting Him with? A job? Money for rent? Mending a bad relationship? Passing a class? Your entire future? Trusting someone is something that is hard. It’s so hard to pass over that control to someone else. It’s so much easier to try to be in control ourselves. It’s so hard to surrender that over to someone else. But, has He been faithful in the past? What is keeping you from letting him have every part of your life?

Choices.

The lives that we live are a result of the choices that we make.

Are the things that we are doing in life right now.. are they things that the Lord loves? Are they things that we are actually doing to serve and honor the Lord? Or are they empty rituals? Are we distracted by the busyness of life?

What stones has God asked you to carry? How are these things placed in your life? What are your priorities? Does everything fit? Is there anything that is distracting you from loving and serving Him?

“Be Still and Know I am God.”
Psalm 46:10

Be Still. How hard is that? That’s what I think the world needs most. To stop all that they are doing and just be still. I think that we’d really think about things more.. and just maybe we’d be able to hear what He’s trying to say. I want to make it my goal that for 20 minutes a day, I will be quiet. I will sit, in uninterrupted silence with my Savior and Lord, just listening to what he wants to tell me.

One of the reasons we need to memorize scripture is so that you can always have the Word of the Lord with you. What if you found yourself in jail because of your faith? What if things were taken away from you? How much of the Bible would you be able to remember? How much of it have you “hidden in your heart?” So, along with “being still,” I also want to start to memorize more of the Bible.

On a closing note.. I’d like to leave you with a challenge, if I haven’t shared enough of those in this post already:

  1. Open your heart.  He loves you as you are right now.  But, He doesn’t want to leave you that way.  His love comes to set you free.
  2. Perfect love casts out fear.
  3. These words he promises, I will love you outrageously, all the days of your life.

He’s the only one who will ever fulfill that promise to you. Remember that.

Bonhoeffer Part 2: The Call to Discipleship

The second chapter of “The Cost of Discipleship” is based on the verse “And as he passed by he saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the place of toll, and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.” (Mark 2:14) He leaves, as Bonhoeffer states, a life of “relative security” for a life of “absolutely insecurity (that is, in truth,…the absolute security and safety of the fellowship of Jesus.)” We have received a similar call and must be willing to abandon all in bondage of Christ alone. This is not in any way legalistic because it does not hinge on any one command or any set of laws but on Christ alone because it is only him that matters.

Once we receive the call we must obey with reckless abandon. Additionally, faith and obedience must go hand in hand. They go hand and hand to such an extent that if you are having trouble believing, you should analyze whether there is an area in your life in which you have been disobeying. Or if it is becoming difficult to obey…you should look to see if there is something that you have been struggling to believe.

We should obey, Bonhoeffer states, even if it means breaking the laws of our country. This is especially noteworthy given Bonhoeffer’s situation. In order to obey God in his day he had to very blatantly break the laws of the Nazis by giving his first allegiance to Christ and the church rather than to his country and race. Bonhoeffer died because of this obedience. This should inspire us to obey while we sit comfortably in primarily suburban homes…not being asked to blatantly break laws on pain of death but merely to change how we live.

Obviously this can be very difficult and none of us ever fully succeeds in obedience…but I always have to remind myself that no one ever said it would be easy. We receive grace when we fall short which is so amazing but we should strive always to obey. How else will the world know what we live for?

A chance to grow

Some people say that the first step to fixing a problem is admitting there is a problem to fix in the first place.  Well, I’m here to admit that I haven’t been pursuing Christ with the zeal I desire to.  It’s not that there is a doubt in my faith or even the slightest concern about my future, it’s that I significantly desire a genuine/strong relationship with my Savior.

I came across this website through a friend.  I want to announce to the blogging world, and to myself, that I have failed at pursuing our Lord with a passionate heart.  I’ve made it a goal for the remainder of summer to begin a more active growth in my Christianity, a chance to get a habit started before I go back to school.

I know this wasn’t a hugely influential post, or highly enlightening, but stay tuned.  With others striving to grow in Christ and writing about their experiences, it brings encouragement to my own relationship with Christ.  Soon I’ll be in the Word the way I’ve longed to be…  and you’ll hear about my growth and love for Christ as a fellow Biblical Stranger.

Faith Like a Child

“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

Faith. My pastor gave an amazing message on Sunday morning on that subject. Based on Hebrews 11, he noted that the definition of faith today is vastly different than the definition 200 years ago. Faith today is all about feeling, all about emotion. Our faith is flimsy, dependent on the events and people that surround us. Faith according to Hebrews is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” In that context, one can argue the idea that faith is not about feeling or emotion, because with this kind of faith we have no attachment or connection to the object of our faith outside of trusting and believing the God of the universe cares. As Jason Ostrander put it, “We serve the God who spins galaxies on one hand, but on the other, is intimately concerned about our afternoon.” It is incredible how much faith it takes to believe that the God who created the universe, who molded the stars and put the planets in motion, is so concerned about our small problems.

I read a book titled, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Frank Turek. It was one of the most challenging reads of my life and really spoke on how much more faith it requires to believe in the non-existence of God than it takes for us to believe in the existence of God. Do we really exercise that faith though? Jesus constantly referenced faith in the Bible as childlike. Children constantly have faith in their parents that they will do what’s best for them, that they’ll give them the food they need. Children also have amazing faith in the Lord. I’ve heard countless stories of the most impossible situations imaginable and a child giving the most profound, trusting and believing answer that God will heal or provide. We practice faith everyday in the world around us. We exercise faith that when we turn on a light switch, the light will come on. We exercise faith when we sit down in the chair to eat dinner, it will support us. We exercise faith that when the stoplight turns red, the other cars will stop as you proceed through the intersection. All small amounts of faith required for the littlest things in our lives.

Recently, I have found myself asking the question — do I have childlike faith? Do I have that kind of faith that says even when the road darkens, I will not abandon my course? I pray that I have the kind of faith that always believes, always hopes, and always trusts. “Hope does not disappoint us.” We may doubt, but when doubt gets in the way of our faith and hope, it is then the problem arises.

“Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” –Oswald Chambers

The insights of Bonhoeffer

I am currently reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in conjunction with my daily devotions.

First of all, Bonhoeffer was such an inspiring man. He realized that the church in Germany during the 1930s and 40s looked no different from secular society. The church was not living out the life of obedience and discipleship it is called to do. It possessed “a form of godliness but den[ied] its power” which is what Paul warned would happen to some churches in the later days. [2 Tim 3:5] Bonhoeffer spoke out against this and continued preaching the true gospel and working to show people the love of Christ until he was eventually imprisoned and killed by the Nazis in 1945.

I am only a couple chapters into the book but will write briefly about what has struck me so far.

Bonhoeffer distinguishes between what he calls “cheap grace” and “costly grace”. Cheap grace he defines as “a doctrine, a principle, a system”, “a cheap covering for… sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God.” “It is justification of sin without the justification of the sinner”.[pp 45-46]  This is when we know we are forgiven and therefore possess no urgency to change–to become real disciples. How many Christians today just accept God’s forgiveness but live in the exact same way as their secular counterparts?

Costly grace, in contract, is an acknowledgment that grace is a gift that comes in conjunction with a truly repentant heart [and thus a radical change in lifestyle]. Grace IS costly…the Son of God gave his life to buy it for us. It does not make us followers of Christ to merely acknowledge forgiveness and go on behaving the same way. We must strive always to become like Christ and to forego those things which cause us to stumble. We really should look different from the world around us if we remove those things which keep us from being like Christ…so why don’t we? Just a thought.

I’ll write more after I have read more of the book, but in closing:

“Happy are they who know that discipleship simply means the life which springs from grace, and that grace simply means discipleship. Happy are they who have become Christians in this sense of the word. For them the word of grace has proved a fount of mercy.” [Cost of Discipleship p 60]

Advice fallen short of completion

So it begins

It’s no secret that I have made mistakes throughout my past, many of which were in the spotlight of my social life.  I had many people in life that could have taught me how to avoid so many mistakes, but I failed to use them as a resource.  This is the first blog post on the recently created Biblical-Stranger blog; a website dedicated to strangers growing in the relationship with Christ together.  I was ignorant and foolish to reject the wisdom of others when I was young, now I must make up for lost time.  This website will allow you to absorb some of the wisdom from others and potentially provide wisdom from others… all from the comfort of your own computer screen and done so anonymously.  Take a few minutes and help build a community of Christian strangers.

The first post begins…. now…

Lately I’ve come to the discovery of how peaceful the silence of our late A.M. hours can be.  Darkness surrounds the earth and the elegant moon becomes a temporary night-light, guiding us from place to place.  I sat on the highest point of my roof at 2:00 A.M., soaking in the beauty emerging in the darkness.  Advice was given to each other by each other, hoping to solve some of life’s challenges while on the peak of that tall roof.  Upon the completion of our conversation, I realized my advice was only half full…  in fact, most the times I give advice I’ve been forgetting a crucial “ingredient.”

The missing “ingredient”

Several months ago I was struggling in life because I was so confused on where to go or how God was directing me.  God and his remarkable timing was certainly evident that Sunday morning.  Pastor Troy Dobbs of Grace Church began his sermon on God’s plan for us, and how we can determine what our calling in life may be.  It wasn’t some intense or confusing combination of tasks.  In fact, it was as simple as diving into God’s word and allowing Him to speak to us through His Text.  You see, the missing ingredient was reminding my friends to dive into Christ’s Word and to utilize prayer.

God is capable of communicating through any medium we can think of, and ones that we as humans couldn’t even contemplate.  Though it seemed to make a great deal of sense that God uses prayer and especially the Biblical text; brought into existence through God.  There no wondering why I had been struggling in life, why I had no sense of direction; maintaining devotions was a challenge, no to mention actively reading God’s word.

What to remember…

It’s going to be your choice what you take away from this post (or from this website).  You can think about how I forget to give full advice, or the fact that I was uncertain my path… But if that’s all you dwell on, you dropped the ball.  I urge you to dive into God’s word and strive to excel the growth you should have in Jesus Christ.  When others ask for advice, don’t forget to mention the power of prayer and how much we can take away from Christ by reading His word.  Doubt me if you will, though I am certain you’ll come to understand the Lord’s power in a new way.

~The Biblical Stranger~