Maybe This Time…

Over and over again, I find myself praying for opportunities, opportunities to share the gospel or to share the love of Christ with others.  The intentions I have when I pray for opportunities are, of course, good intentions.  But, they are just that, intentions.  I can pray for opportunities until I am blue in the face, but it won’t change a thing.  Until I act on the opportunities God has given me, they will be nothing more than opportunities.  Too often I think we go through life praying for opportunities while we walk right by them.  The opportunities are everywhere, in our homes, at the post office, the thrift store, and even the bowling alley.

We are called to be stewards of the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).  That doesn’t mean keeping the gospel to ourselves, but sharing it with others that it might increase and be multiplied.  A steward doesn’t only see the opportunities, He makes the investment.  “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as LORD, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, ‘let light shine out of the darkness,’ has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6).  We have the light.  Each day we should be proclaiming that light to others.

There is a song by Casting Crowns called “Here I Go Again” that reflects the importance of actually taking the opportunities God gives us.  It is one I listen to over and over again; a great reminder to not only see the opportunities but to take them because it might be someone’s last or only chance to hear the words of life.  The words to the song are:

So maybe this time I’ll speak the words of life
With Your fire in my eyes
But that old familiar fear is tearing at my words
What am I so afraid of?

‘Cause here I go again
Talkin ’bout the rain
And mulling over things that won’t live past today
And as I dance around the truth
Time is not his friend
This might be my last chance to tell him
That You love Him
But here I go again, here I go again

Lord, You love him so, You gave Your only Son
If he will just believe; he will never die
But how then will he know what he has never heard
Lord he has never seen mirrored in my life

This might be my last chance to tell him
That You love him
This might be my last chance to tell him
That You love him
You love him, You love him

What Am I so afraid
What am I so afraid
What am I so afraid of?

How many “maybe this times” will there be?  God gives us opportunities each day, yet we often believe the lie that maybe next time will be a better opportunity.  We talk about the rain and talk about things that won’t live past today.  More often than not, we waste the very opportunities we ask for.  The enemy wants us to believe the idea that there is always time.  The gospel is a life or death matter.  How will the people we encounter every day know the truth unless we take the opportunities to tell them.  “How are they to hear without someone preaching” (Romans 10:14)?  Does the weather really matter when someone’s eternal soul hangs in the balance?

The enemy doesn’t care if we pray for opportunities.  We can have all the opportunities we want.  The enemy cares when we start taking those opportunities and making the most of them.  Opportunities are everywhere.  When we begin to look for them, recognize them, and act on them, the devil is hard at work in an attempt to prevent us from taking those opportunities.  The devil has lost the battle for our soul, but will continue to fight against the spread of the gospel hoping that it will stop with us.

I can talk all day about the gospel.  We can talk amongst ourselves about the gospel, but what does our talk matter if we are not sharing it with others, if we are not living it out each day.  Talking about the gospel with others who are already saved will not bring others to salvation.  We can talk about sharing the gospel, we can talk about taking our opportunities, but we must not only talk, we must do “For the Kingdom of God does not consist in talk” (1 Corinthians 4:20).  “Let us not love in words or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 2:18).  Knowledge will pass away, but the light of the gospel and the love of Christ will remain.  It matters not what we say, but how we live and how we love.

I can sit here and write spiritual sounding blog posts every day and what will I gain?  What will be gained for the gospel if I write and do not actually live out the words I am speaking?  I can continue to pray for opportunities day in and day out, but what will happen to the opportunities I miss while I pray for more?

The Lord has given me many opportunities throughout my life and especially throughout the last three months.  I regret to say, I have not done a very good job acting on many of those opportunities.  I talk about love and trust and don’t consistently live it out in my home.  I go to work and to the store and neglect to show the love of Christ to my co-workers or to the other shoppers.  I go into difficult areas of town and encounter people who are desperate to hear the hope of Christ and yet I keep my mouth shut.

I want to be bold for the gospel.  I don’t want to waste any more time looking high and low for the opportunities when they are right in front of my face.  I want my “manner of life [to] be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).  I want the words that I proclaim to be evident in my every deed.

So, instead of asking for opportunities, we should be asking for the boldness to act on them, for the boldness to share the gospel and share the love and the light of Christ.  “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).  I pray that the Lord will grant to me, and to you, to continue “to speak the word of God with all boldness” (Acts 4:31).

Trust is a Choice

Thinking about all that God has taught me in the last four months nearly makes my head spin (or maybe it was just the coffee I drank).  I took some time the last few days to ponder the lessons God has been teaching me since He directed me to go to India.  One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is about Trust.

It has been my prayer, for quite some time now, that God would teach me to trust Him more.  When I started praying that prayer, I didn’t realize how it might change my life.  I didn’t really consider the path God might take me down in order to teach me to trust Him.  I think I thought God would change me overnight.  That one day I would suddenly just know how to trust Him.  That one day I would go from not knowing how to trust God to the next being able to trust Him completely.  But that isn’t how God works.  I am not a robot and instead of being programmed I am taught.  In order for me to learn something, there must be repetition and practice.  I can’t simply read God’s word and expect an instant change.  I actually have to take action, I have to live it.

In teaching me to trust Him, God has led me into situations far out of my comfort zone.  It doesn’t take much to trust God in the places I feel comfortable in or that I can handle by myself.  It is when things are completely out of my control that I learn to trust in the Lord with all my heart.  Trust doesn’t come easily.  Trust requires a choice.  Standing still is not Trust.  In order to actually trust God I have to pick up my feet and take a step forward.  I have to step out and take the first step trusting that God will show me the next one.  Each step doesn’t necessarily get easier, but learning to trust God means taking each step in spite of feelings of fear.  The choice to trust God must override the temptation to fear.  Trusting God means stepping forward in whatever directions He leads and leaving the outcome up to Him.

God says His word is a lamp for my feet and a light to my path.  When I first learned that verse (Psalm 119:105) the idea in my head was a bit skewed.  The image in my head was of a path, yes, but the surroundings were clearly in view just as they are in broad daylight.  If God’s word is a lamp, there is a problem with the picture I had in my head.  A lamp is not needed in full daylight.  If the world around me were a bright place, I wouldn’t be in need of a lamp.  God’s promise to light my path is evidence that the path may not appear clear; I may not be able to see the whole path ahead of me.  Instead of promising a clear view of the entire trail, God promises His word as a guiding light.

At night, a lamp only shines out enough to see the next few steps.  In order to see further, I must hold the lamp out in front of me and move forward one step at a time.  Trusting God works the same way.  In order to see the path ahead, I have to be reading His word and using its light to guide me in taking the next step.

God is teaching me to trust Him, for sure, but He is also making it clear to me how important it is to put trust into practice.  Trust isn’t something that becomes a constant habit.  In order to continue trusting God, I have to practice it each and every day.

When God directed me to go to India for the summer, I could have stood still.  I could have complained about it not being what I expected or wanted.  Instead I prayed that God would help me to trust Him.  In spite of the fear that left me trembling, I had to make the choice to step forward.  Once I made that choice I was fully dependent on God.  The whole idea of going to India was God’s and the events surrounding it were out of my control.  Once I took the first step by applying to go to India, I had to keep trusting in God’s faithfulness.  At first the fundraising for the trip seemed daunting.  I knew God was calling me to go to India, but had to trust Him to make the way before me.  I was asked the question, “If God doesn’t provide the funds, will that be God telling you not to go?”  With that as a possibility, I had to surrender my fears and my dreams and allow God to take control.  God made it pretty clear what His answer was.  Within a month and a half God had provided all of the funds I needed to go to India.  Once the funds were raised, everything appeared to be set.  All was going as “planned”.  Then, about two weeks ago my team and I found out we would need to apply for Visas in order to get into India.   I applied and within twenty-four hours received an email letting me know my application had been rejected.  I almost could have laughed.  I could see what God was doing.  He took the situation that I thought was under control, out of my hands again.  Even though the Visa seemed like such a simple thing, I had to trust God completely.  Staying up all night on the phone with India got me nowhere.  God gave me no other option but to entrust the visa to Him and to wait patiently.  A week later, after much prayer, my Visa was granted.  I am learning even now, how important it is to trust God each day with every little thing.  Trusting God in the big things seems obvious and it seems like if I can trust God with the big things, it should be easy to trust Him with the smaller ones.  Sometimes though, God has to take the small things I think I have under control out of my control in order for me to learn to trust Him fully.

His Word Stands Forever

Lately I’ve been trying to sort out what I’m thinking in my head so that I can put it into words and share it with others.  People have asked me what God has been teaching me and I haven’t been able to pin just one thing down.  There are so many lessons I’ve learned in the last 4 months it would take many pages to write them all, many conversations to tell about each lesson God has taught me.

In the last four months my love for God’s word has continued to grow.  I have read the Bible for many years.  I love reading God’s word!  But recently, it has taken on a new meaning in my life.  The more time I spend in the word, the more I love it. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).  His word is a lamp to light the way.  “Every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5).  The things of this earth pass away, but ” the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).  God’s word is alive today.  It is as applicable now as it was thousands of years ago.  “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).  No matter who you are, there are scriptures that apply to you.  No matter what you are facing, there are passages that have the power to instruct and change you.  There is nothing new under the sun.  What has been done is what will be done.  When I read God’s word I see the things I am facing reflected perfectly.  When I can’t quite put into words what I am going through or learning, I can read the Bible and understand more clearly.

As I learn more about God and understand more about who He is and who he wants me to become, I understand more of His word.  The scriptures have become more alive to me than ever before.  As the Psalmist says in Psalms 119:147 “I hope in your [His] words.  My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your [His] promise” and in Psalms 119:161-162 “My heart stands in awe of your words.  I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.”  I keep reading His word and pouring over passage after passage of scripture.  The more time I spend in the word the more time I want to read it.

Last night I was reading 1 Peter.  Verse after verse encouraged me and filled me to overflowing.  One verse in particular that stuck out to me was 1 Peter 1:8.  “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him.  Though you do not now see Him you believe Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible”.

I have never seen God, yet I have come to love Him.  I have seen His love for me through creation, through His words, through His promises, and through answered prayers.

In recent months Jesus has become more real to me than ever.  Yet even now, I do not see Him.  I have not seen His face or His form, nor have I audibly heard His voice.  With my physical eyes I have not and do not see God yet I rejoice with joy that is inexpressible.  I know He is real.  I know that He loves me.  I know that He loves the world.

My joy at the words and the faithfulness of the Lord simply cannot be expressed except in the very words found within scripture.  Christ surpasses all understanding.  Most would not understand the joy I have found. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).  In the past several months, I have faced some of the most difficult decisions.  I have been challenged in ways I never dreamed of or even wanted, yet I have come through stronger and more full of joy and the love of Christ.  My own words can never fully express the joy that fills me.  Only God’s word can bring understanding to the joy, the peace, and the love I am filled with.  This joy is inexpressible.  I have indeed “tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:3).

If you are ever wondering what God is doing in your life or if you are facing a situation you simply cannot understand, take time to read God’s word.  Abide in His word.  He has given us the scriptures as a light to guide our steps.  Don’t look for answers in the world.  Look for answers in the word of God which is flawless and stands forever.

Prayer for the Journey

It’s hard to believe I will be on the ground in India less than a month from now.  The last 3 months have flown by.  Seriously, I don’t think I have ever experienced time go by so quickly.  God has been up to some incredible work in my life lately.  He has taken me down a road I never would have dreamed of (and I haven’t even left Washington yet).  God has been showing me the truth of Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  Planning and dreaming are important, but trusting God for the ultimate outcome is critical.  I have learned that I can dream and plan all I want, but God’s purposes will prevail.

In preparing to go to India, I have been blessed and overwhelmed by the support of my family and many dear friends. It is an amazing blessing to have friends telling me they are praying for me, to have them pray with me, and to have my family pray with and for me.  Prayers are so encouraging and the support I have received is truly a testimony of God’s faithfulness.  I would like to give you all an update about some of the amazing things God has done in my life lately and would also like to share with you some more specific things you can be praying for.

First of all, God is so faithful!  His steadfast love is amazing!  In the past several months I have gained a greater understanding of who God is and have experienced His love and provision in ways I never imagined possible.  God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20).  I have learned what it means to praise God for his faithfulness and provision.  As a child, I was often confused about the praising part of prayer.  I knew in my head God was amazing and faithful, because I had been told.  More recently, God’s amazing love and faithfulness have become very real to me.  I have been overwhelmed by His faithfulness and am learning to praise Him in everything.  Here are some specific praises and ways God has shown up in my life:

  1. His provision. When I started fundraising in late February, the number I had to raise was quite daunting.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to be possible.  In less than 2 months God provided more than enough money to cover my expenses.
  2. Completing first year of college.  Normally, SFCC does not get out of class until late June. I was able to complete all of my classes last week and don’t have to worry about getting any more school work done before I leave.
  3. Confidence and Peace. At the beginning of this journey, I was facing a lot of anxiety.  I was nervous about getting vaccines, getting on a plane, and about leaving for a month.  God has filled me with peace regarding all three.  I got the vaccines with no trouble at all.  I no longer tremble at the thought of stepping on a plane, but am filled with peace knowing I am headed right where God wants me.  The thought of leaving is no longer frightening either.  I have surrendered to God’s leading and He has filled me with confidence and excitement.
  4. Family.  My family has been incredibly supportive of my going to India.  I think we have all grown closer in the past few months and I have been immensely blessed by the love and support my parents, as well as each of my brothers, have shown me.

Secondly, there are still many things on my mind as I prepare to leave.  The time is drawing nearer and it is taking some crazy trust to remain calm and trust God through everything.  I would be so blessed if you would keep me in your prayers for the following requests as well as anything else God puts on your heart to pray for:

  1. Pray that God will fill me with peace and calm during the next few weeks. Just thinking about the limited number of days before I leave is overwhelming.  I know this is exactly where God wants me right now, but I am still learning to trust Him daily.
  2. Pray that all the necessary documents will be arranged in time. I found out last week that I would need a Visa.  Shortly after I applied, I received an email letting me know my Visa application had been rejected.  We are not quite sure why, but I still have two more chances to apply before this Friday.
  3. Pray that God will continue preparing my heart for all that He has in store.
  4. Pray for me, as well as for the rest of my team, that anxiety will not take hold. For many of us, going to India is a step way beyond anything we imagined.  I am pretty sure we are all learning to trust God’s faithfulness and protection each day.  Pray for peace and strength in the days ahead.

Before I go, I am hoping to establish a team of prayer supporters. I will, Lord willing, be sending out email updates (at least weekly) with praises and specific prayer requests. I know many of you are already praying for me, but if you would like to get updates and be on the prayer team email list please let me know.  If you would like to get updates starting now and throughout this journey there are two ways you can get them.

  1. Let me know if you would like to be added to the list of people on my prayer team. I am hoping to send out email updates with praises and prayer updates weekly.  You can message me your email addresses on Facebook.
  2. You can subscribe to this blog at the bottom of the page in order to get an email every time I post an update on this blog.

I am so thankful to have the support of so many and would love to include you in all God is doing in my life!

When it’s Hard to Pray

I’ve wanted to write this post for quite some time, but I knew I couldn’t do it unless I took my own advice.  When I started this blog, I compiled a list of topics I hoped to write about.  Most were about what God has been doing in my life or about lessons He has taught me.

One of those lessons was to pray about everything.  If God puts it on your heart, pray about it.  You may not want to, but it’s worth it.

Throughout the New Testament we are instructed to pray about everything.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)”

Whatever we are facing, God wants us to pray about it.  “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. (James 5:13)”

When we don’t know what to do, God says to pray about it.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)”

God answers prayers.  Many times, I have prayed “God show me what to do,” only to wish I could run the other direction when He made it clear to me.  Sometimes, it is when we do know what God wants us to do that it becomes hardest to pray.  I’ve found that sometimes, rather than asking God to show me what to do, I’ve needed to ask Him for the strength to do that which I did not want to do.  I’ve often found myself avoiding what I knew God wanted.  I used to wonder how Jonah could ignore God’s voice or how he could even think of running the other direction.  It’s not hard to imagine now.

At first, when God put India on my heart, I didn’t want to pray about it.  I didn’t even want to think about it.  I didn’t want to allow any room for the possibility that God might tell me to “Go.”  Just as Jonah discovered, ignoring God or running the other direction doesn’t solve the problem.  When I finally asked God what He wanted, He showed me the way to go.  India wasn’t what I had planned and certainly not what I had hoped for.  But, when I surrendered my will to God and began taking steps in the right direction, He gave me the courage I needed.  I was filled with peace.  “The peace of God that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7)” filled my heart and mind.  I was no longer afraid.  In fact, my desires came into alignment with God’s plans.  Instead of being afraid or disappointed, I could hardly contain my joy and excitement.  When I finally surrendered my will to God’s I felt more freedom than ever before.  I felt peace and overwhelming joy.  I thought then, that I had learned my lesson.

More recently, I felt God leading me to give up something very precious to me.  I held on tightly, not wanting to acknowledge the choice I knew I would have to make.  For a time, I was able to push thoughts of surrender aside.  Soon, I could bear it no longer.  I poured out my heart to God.  As I prayed, His leading was evident.  I caught myself complaining to God “It’s too hard, I can’t do it”; a futile argument, I knew.  Even as I prayed those words I was reminded that Jesus went to the cross for me.  It was hard, He didn’t want to, but because He loved me, He went to the cross for me.  As He prayed in Gethsemane, He sought any other option, but He knew He didn’t have one.  When I prayed the other night, I knew I only had one option.  I finally surrendered my will to God.  Instead of praying for a way out, I began praying for the strength and courage I needed.  God was again faithful, as He always is.  He gave me the strength I needed to face what was ahead.

I surrendered my will and my hopes.  Instead of clinging to the things I wanted or loved, I am learning to cling to God.  After surrendering to God, there was nothing else to cling to.  When we surrender to God, we are not admitting defeat.  Instead we are allowing God to fight for us.  In surrendering, there is freedom; instead of loss, there is victory.

As I came to the realization of the freedom surrender brings, I was again filled with peace and joy.  A short time after I surrendered my will completely to God, I had the opportunity to discuss 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 with one of my AWANA girls. “Pray without ceasing,
in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  God’s timing is so perfect.  The verse was the reminder I needed.

Whatever God puts in our path is meant for our good.  He wants us to take everything to Him and to focus solely on Him. Whatever we may be facing, it is a part of God’s plan for our lives.  We may not like it at the time, but it is meant for our good.  God has out best interests in mind; we just have to trust Him.  “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)”

Evidence of Christ

“I know girls,” sighed the camp counselor, “you’ve probably done this every year.  Tonight is the first night of camp and we are all supposed to share our testimonies.  Who wants to go first?”

You could tell, by looking around the room at the faces of the young girls, none was too keen on the idea.  Finally, after a few too many moments of awkward silence, one of the girls spoke up.  Her story was heart-rending; that of a broken home, utter despair, a faithful friend, and discovery of salvation in Christ.

“Oh good,” you might think to yourself, “surely one tale of hope will lead to another right?”

But suddenly, the rest of the girls seem to have taken great interest in their toes or in the specs of dirt mashed into the carpet.  They are more reluctant than before to speak up.  Something is definitely not right.  Maybe none of the girls are saved; or maybe they just don’t know what a testimony is.

The counselor speaks up again.  This time, with an explanation, “girls a testimony is just the story of how you got saved, it doesn’t have to be long…”Still, nothing.  It’s getting late, so in an effort to stay positive, the counselor suggests the rest of the girls share on another night.

This account is all too familiar.  And, I have a feeling many can relate.  Year after year, I’ve watched this scene play out.  Quite honestly, I’ve often been the one (or one of the many) reluctant to speak up and it wasn’t because I wasn’t saved.

I didn’t have a radical conversion story to tell.  I hadn’t come from a broken home.  Fact is I could hardly remember a time without Christ in my life; a time before I was saved.  What was I supposed to say?  Would the others even think I was a Christian?  If I didn’t have a profound tale of conversion, if I couldn’t remember a time when sin reigned in my life, was I truly saved?

Recently, I have watched other young girls struggle with these very same doubts.  I’ve watched them try to pinpoint a moment when they knew they were saved; heard them ask the question “how do I know I am really saved?”  I’ve known these girls for years.  I’ve watched them grow and heard their questions.  I am convinced they are saved.  I see it, but they can’t.  I see the light and the difference in their life, but the change is so slight they can’t find it on their own.  Sadly, these girls doubt because they have always heard the radical conversion stories.   They have listened over and over to a pastor’s story of criminal to Christ follower.  Their own friends have come from broken homes and devastation to discovering hope in Christ.

Praise the Lord for the redemption in so many broken lives, but where are all the people who grew up in a Christian home and were saved before they started kindergarten?  I know I’m not the only one; these precious girls I know are proof of that.

Every Christian has a story about their salvation.  It doesn’t have to be lengthy.  The point is you realized you were a sinner, saw your need for a savior, and accepted God’s free gift of salvation.  A testimony is “evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something.”  In other words, a testimony is proof or evidence of your salvation.

A testimony is not supposed to be a detailed dictation of your life before Christ.  Rather, a testimony is the evidence of Christ in your life.  In the Bible, the disciples didn’t spend their time deliberating over their life before Christ.  That wasn’t and still isn’t the point!  The purpose of a testimony is that Christ would be made known; that through a believer’s life, others might see the light of life.

After you are saved, your testimony grows.  As you grow in your walk with the Lord there is more evidence for Christ in your life.  Jesus commands “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:16).”  It doesn’t matter if our story is one of brokenness or one of finding Him as a little child.  What matters is we have salvation in Him and through us others can see Him.  “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it
15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:14-15).”  We are to be His witnesses!  No matter where we are, no matter what our story, we represent Christ.  That means sharing our story without reserve; sharing with others the evidence of Christ in our lives.

Billboard for Jesus

When my brothers and I were little, Mom didn’t want us wearing clothes that had brand names on them.  She always said she didn’t want us to be walking billboards.  Of course, at 8 years old, all a shirt with words on it meant to me was…nothing.  How could a shirt with some word I couldn’t pronounce (like aeropostle) and didn’t even understand, make me into a billboard.  At the time, though, I didn’t really care.

Now, looking back, I can see the reason for not wearing those clothes.  By wearing shirts with a brand name on it, you are promoting an organization and therefore, its values.  Ultimately, whether you wear a shirt that has words on it or not, it doesn’t determine the fact that you are a billboard.

Everyone is, in fact, a billboard.  Every person has values.  Every person chooses to represent something.  Whether you represent something by the clothes you wear, the establishments you frequent, the way you talk, or the morals you live by, you are representing something.  Each person demonstrates some sort of standard or set of values to the world.  The world is watching you.  No matter who you are, you encounter numerous people every day.  All these people see the way you behave, talk, or dress.  When you interact with others and go about your daily life, you are representing your beliefs and values to others.  Whether you like it or not, people are developing ideas and impressions about you.  It may take a few times for people to get the message of a billboard as they drive by, just as it may take a few encounters with others to understand what they represent.  Nonetheless, each of us does represent someone or something.

The question is not whether you are a billboard or not.  Instead the question is, who/what are you representing to those around you?

Many choose to represent themselves.  They are the kind of people who are always talking about themselves, they are always looking out for themselves, and they want others to see them.  Others choose to represent a common cause; they talk about it, pay attention to it, and promote it so that others will see.

As a Christian, I know that I have been created and chosen by God for His glory.  “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Cor. 5:14-15)”  As Christians, what we proclaim should not be ourselves but Christ.  “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.
6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)”

So, whether I spend 5 minutes with someone or every day with them, I want them to see Christ in me.  I want them to see Christ’s light shining through me.  It doesn’t matter if people see me.  What matters is if people see Christ through me.  It matters most that they see Christ’s love and salvation and that they accept His gift for their own. I am okay with being a billboard, but I want to be a billboard for Jesus.

In preparing for my mission trip, I have had the opportunity to interact with many different people.  I have written letters, talked to people on the phone, and told people in person about the opportunity God has given me to serve Him.  As I share with people, I don’t want my words to be about me.  Yeah, it is really cool that I am going to India, but that’s not what it’s about.  When I tell people about going to India, I don’t want them to see me, I want them to see Christ, I want them to see His love, and I want them to see His hand in my life.  My hope is to reach people with the gospel of Christ.  I am learning that the mission is much more than my time in India.  My mission starts now.  I can share the gospel of Christ with everyone I tell about this opportunity in India.  As much as my ministry is to the people in India, my ministry is to the people here at home who will be following me on this journey.

Stick to the Trail

In Awana one of the first verses TnT girls learn is Psalm 25:4, which says “Show me your ways, O Lord, Teach me your paths.”  I have always liked this verse, but I never really paid a lot of attention to it.  It is one of the shorter verses the girls learn, and they usually memorize it pretty fast.  It’s also pretty easy to understand, so we don’t spend a great deal of time on it.  This year, as one of my girls was studying the verse and I was explaining it to her, I was struck by the Psalmist prayer for God to show Him the way to go.  In the last year, every time one of my girls has recited the verse I have been reminded to seek the Lord’s wisdom.  Every time I hear the verse, it becomes my prayer.

I want to know where God wants me and what He wants me to be doing.   I long to understand who He is and what path He has laid out for me.  As, I have prayed that verse, God has answered my prayer.   He promises in Isaiah “I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”

Many times in the past year, I have been asked the question that most seniors in High School dread.  “So, what are you going to do now?  What do you have planned for the rest of your life?”  I have despised the question as much as the next student.  Everyone seems to apologize as soon as they ask the question, but they always ask it.  I have not always had a good answer for the question.  Yeah, I have a lot of dreams, a lot of hopes for the future, but ultimately I want to follow God’s plan and not my own.  God’s plan for my life is far better, and far different, than any plan I could come up with for myself.  It seems every time I try to plan my own course, God takes me somewhere else.

The best answer to the question “what are your plans for the future?”  would be that I want to follow God wherever He leads.  Honestly though, that hasn’t always been my first response.  It isn’t necessarily an easy response.  It takes a lot of faith to wait for God’s direction and to trust that He will lead you in the way He wants you to go.  It certainly isn’t the answer people are looking for.  People expect to hear your plans for a successful career.  They expect you to tell them what college you plan to attend, what degree you are going to get, and what kind of money you will make in the future.  Sadly, those things are considered success in our culture.  God’s idea of success is far different.  God isn’t stuck on the idea of a nine-to-five work day or a person’s dollar value.  He often calls His chosen ones to much greater things; greater in a biblical sense.  Success in God’s eyes is not measured by how much we made, but by how much we gave.

As I have prayed for God to show me His ways, He has been teaching me that the most important part is trusting in Him.  He knows the plans He has for me and while I cannot see the future, I can trust my future to Him.  He is showing me the way to go, but not revealing all the stops along the way.  I believe that God wants me to trust Him one step at a time rather than constantly trying to look ahead or find out what’s next.  Ultimately, God has called me to be a witness for Him.  He wants me to love others and to share the gospel.

I’ve learned that when I trust God, things turn out far different and far better than I could have imagined.  When I try to plan everything out myself, my plans fail and they usually aren’t great to begin with.  God’s has been showing me His ways and teaching me His paths.  Walking with God is a lot like setting out on a hiking adventure.  We know what’s at the end, because we have been told.  trailheadBut what’s in between the trail head and the end point we may not know.  We simply need to trust that if we keep moving down the path and stick to the trail we will get to the end.  We will probably see some of the most beautiful sights along the way, we may have to ford through turbulent waters, or climb steep and rocky grades.  We may get caught on switch backs and keep coming to the same areas again and again with hardly any elevation gain.  We might get caught in the mud or lose our sense of direction for a time.  No matter where we are on the trail we have the promise of what we will reach at the end.  All we need to do is stay focused and follow the path one step at a time.  The beauty and hardship we face on the way will all be worth it when we reach the goal at the end of the trail.

end of the trail.jpg

God’s Gift of Salvation for ALL PEOPLE

For as long as I can remember, I have had a deep desire to see people come to a saving faith in Christ Jesus.  When I learned about Jesus as a young child, I remember being very concerned for all the people who died before Jesus came to make a way.  I was distressed in my limited understanding, that all of the people in between Adam and Christ’s resurrection had died still enslaved by sin.  It was impossible for me to believe that a loving creator would allow people to die in sin without hope of salvation.  I knew there was nothing man could do to reach God and I understood, quite well, how overwhelmingly impossible it was to live a perfect life and reach God’s standard.

When I finally learned of God’s promise to the Israelites of a coming Messiah, I was slightly relieved.  If the Israelites believed God’s promise, they would be saved.  At that time, I was glad God had made a way for the Israelites, but I felt it a great injustice that the rest of the world did not have the promise of a savior.

My heart’s desire and prayer to God for the lost was/and is that they would be saved.  I was greatly burdened for the lost, who are alive today, but I couldn’t bear the thought that those who had lived before Christ had died hopelessly lost in their sins.  Over the years, I somehow reconciled the idea in my understanding of God, as something I would only understand once I got to heaven.  I had a foggy understanding that somehow God must have made a way for them.  I trusted that in His great love, God would not let people die without even a chance at salvation.  I was content to trust God, knowing some things were beyond my understanding.

Lately, as I have been studying Isaiah, it has been my prayer that God would give me a greater understanding of who He is.  He who has promised is faithful and He has been answering that prayer daily.  As I was reading Isaiah last night, God’s compassion for the whole world finally became clear to me.  In Isaiah 56:7, God promises, “the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to Him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”  I discovered the promise I have always wondered about.

Even before Jesus walked on Earth, God had made a way for all people to be saved.  Before He sent the messiah, God had compassion on the world and provided a way for anyone to come to Him.  In Isaiah 55:1 God says “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Come buy wine and milk without money and without price.”  Salvation has no price.  Jesus paid for our salvation when He died on the cross.  People who cannot afford their next meal can afford salvation.  God promises the bread of life and the living water to any who ask for it.  God calls everyone who will listen.  “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon Him while He is near, let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7)”

God reminded me last night that His thoughts are not my thoughts and neither are His ways my ways.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than my ways and His thoughts higher than mine (see Isaiah 55:8-9).  All along, God has had a plan.  In His steadfast love he has offered salvation to all people.  As a child, I did not understand God’s plan of salvation for the whole world, but His thoughts were (and are) much higher than mine.

Bibles for the World

Time sure seems to fly when you are anticipating something.  While I am super excited about going to India, it seems the time is going by almost too fast.

A couple of weeks ago, my team and I were updated on where we will be in India and who we are going to be working with there.  Many of you have asked me what I’m going to be doing, so this should give you a better idea of exactly what is going to be happening.

ManipurMy team and I will be headed to Manipur India in June.  Bordered on one side by Myanmar, Manipur is a small state in far North East India.  In Manipur we will be serving with an established organization called “Bibles for the World”.

In 1971, Bibles for the World was started by India natives, Rochunga and Mawii Pudiate.  Initially, there goal was to provide their tribe, the Hmar people, with Bibles in their own language.  Once the translation was complete, they realized their work was not over.  Many of the Hmar people were uneducated and could not read the Bibles.  In order to solve this obstacle, the Pudiates started an elementary school as well as a high school, college and seminary.  The Pudiates also followed God’s direction to plant churches throughout North Eastern India.  Bibles for the World is based in North East India, but is focused on providing Bibles to all people.

Bibles for the World focuses on several goals. The most important goal is to reach people with the Gospel.  The organization has been putting free copies of God’s word in the hands of un-reached people for 35 years.  The Word of God is powerful; when people read the Bible lives are transformed, when they share the Bible communities are transformed, and when people teach the Bible they demonstrate God’s love and transform cultures.

BFW putting the Bible in people hands

In addition to giving people the Bible, Bibles for the World focuses on providing children with a Christian education from primary school to seminary.   Bibles for the World has established several schools throughout North East India as well as a seminary school in Delhi.  By providing children with an education, Bibles for the World is equipping them to continue the spread of the gospel in India and training them to be future leaders in their country.

BFW school children

Bibles for the world also works to provide medical care for the needy.  The organization has established a full-service hospital in North-East India to serve those who cannot afford medical care or would not normally have the opportunity to get it.  In providing impoverished communities with medical care, Bibles for the World works to demonstrate the love of Christ.

When my team and I are in India we will have the opportunity to serve alongside Bibles for the World.  Our team will be focused on reaching un-reached people groups in local villages.  We will likely be doing a lot of work with the children; whether it is through Vacation Bible Schools or after school programs or just getting down in the dirt to play with the little ones.  We may also have the opportunity to teach English, help out with medical camps, or plant churches.