The Passion of the Christ

I finally watched “The Passion of the Christ” two nights ago with a friend and with my daughter.  We wanted to watch it right before Easter weekend.  This was the first time I had seen it.  I have no idea why it took me so long to watch it.

Wow.  I was blown away.  I, of course,  know the story, I’ve read it many times, but watching that movie somehow made me feel the love of God even more than I did before.  Not only did Jesus endure the pain and suffering, but his Father in Heaven watched as His own son was tortured.  All because they love me and wanted me to be in Heaven with them for eternity.

It’s an incredible story.  It’s the best story there is.  It’s the Great News!

My daughter had a lot of questions after watching the movie, so we talked and we looked up verses in the Bible.   I originally had some fear in her watching the movie.  She did turn away quite a bit, but I came to the conclusion that if this story is burned into her memory for the rest of her life, Hallelujah!   I want her to remember all the pain and torment that Jesus went through just for us, because He loved us.  Because He loves her.

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Fear

I’m actually going through two Bible Studies right now.  This week’s chapter in each study was on Fear.  I think God is trying to tell me something.  In fact, I know He is trying to tell me something.  While working through Fear, I came across this awesome video by Francis Chan.  I’ve seen it many times, and you probably have too.  But it’s SO good and so inspiring.  Please watch it again.  I do NOT want to cling to the balance beam my whole life.   I want to actually use the skills that God gave me,  and dismount with confidence when it’s time for judgement.  How about you?

Idols

God is doing some work on me right now.  It’s good.  It’s a little scary and painful, but good.   I’ve been asking Him for a few  years to help me dig up those things in my heart that do not please Him.  Well, He took me seriously and He is doing it. 

Right now at church we are in a series, called Counterfeit Love.  It’s based on the book “Counterfeit Gods” by Tim Keller.  Our small group is reading the book along with the sermon series and then discussing it every two weeks.  It’s been extremely eye-opening to me.  Not only am I going through this book and the sermon series, but I’m also going through Jennie Allen’s “Stuck” Bible Study with a group of my friends.  All of these things combined are proving to be God’s tools in continuing to shape of my character. 

I think God was tired of seeing me struggle and complain, when He knew the root of the problem all along.  I havent’ been trusting  Him enough, believing Him enough, pursuing Him enough and worst of all, I have been putting other “idols” above Him.   Yuck. 

And the thing is, my heart has been pretty sneaky.  All the things I worry about and focus on are not bad, so they disguised themselves as maybe things I should worry about and should focus on.  It’s all been a lie. 

Now a moment of transparency.  I worry about the silliest things.  I worry that my to-do list hasn’t been done and that bugs me.  I want all of my “to-do’s” done for the day and when they are not, I get uncomfortable, uneasy, frustrated and sometimes a little depressed.  I’m serious.  I have valued myself, to this point, by how much I can get done and accomplish in a day.  If I feel I’ve tackled most of my to-do’s, and the house is clean, and everyone has clean underwear and dinner is ready and tasty, then maybe, just maybe I will feel good for the day. 

Again, not bad things, but the wrong things.  I can search and search, but I do not think I’ll ever find a verse in the Bible that says “Follow Jesus, but first make sure all your to-do’s are finished, the floor is swept, and all the laundry is done and dinner is cooked”.  So why have I been living that way?  I want to control my day and when it doesn’t go how I think it should go, I get upset, and sometimes I take it out on those I love the most.  That’s messed up. 

So the journey continues and God and I are working on getting this idol of control out of my heart.  I am praying like crazy, reading His word and asking Him every morning to help take this junk out of my heart and to replace it with Him.  I am looking at my to-do’s and understanding what is motivating them, and why I want to accomplish them.  I’m trying to let God lead. 

This is not going to be easy, we are talking about years of a bad habits ingrained in my being.  Thankfully, God is strong enough to help me overcome this.  I just have to let Him.

Obeying Because I’m Accepted

I’ve heard this phrase a few times in a training we are going through right now at our church.  “I don’t obey to be accepted, I obey BECAUSE I’m accepted”.   That statement sticks in my head and is really the basis for how I explain my attempt to always obey God.

I don’t feel obligated, I don’t do it because I fear the wrath, I don’t do it because it’s a list I need to check off, I don’t do it to feel good about myself and I don’t do it so people or God will think I’m “good”.  I do it because I’m so grateful to God for accepting me into his family.  Even after all the things I’ve done in my life to try and screw things up, He was always there waiting to accept me.  He loves me so much and that is why I obey.

I still screw up daily, but on a much smaller scale than before I began a relationship with God and started following Jesus.    Before I became a Christian, I remember thinking that I wasn’t sure I could follow all the Christian “rules” and that it seemed boring.  Ha!  God was probably laughing, because what He has shown me since is how boring and empty my life was before Him.  I was so focused on myself, and what society thinks, that I never felt happy or joyful inside.  I searched and searched for something or someone to make me happy.

There is only one way to find true joy, and that is through Jesus Christ.  He is the only way.  I have learned that from my own experience, not because someone told me, or because I read it in the Bible.   I’ve experienced the love, acceptance, forgiveness and Grace of God through Jesus and I’ll be eternally grateful.

It’s through that complete gratefulness that I CHOOSE to obey God.  In doing so, He reveals Himself to me in ways I never would’ve imagined.

The Christian way of living, following Christ is ANYTHING but boring.

What are you afraid to give up?

Last night during my Young Life small group meeting we talked about Jesus asking his disciples (Peter in particular) to leave everything to follow Him.  He asks the same of us, but fear holds us back sometimes.  Fear of being uncomfortable.   What are we most of afraid of letting go of?

Think about that for a minute.  What is the first thing you think of as you imagine Jesus knocking on your door telling you that you need to come with Him….and leave everything.  Every single thing and person.  Can you imagine?

For me, it was my family.  I really can’t imagine life without them.  However, if I had to choose, I would choose Jesus.  I would walk out the door behind Him.  Because without Him, my life is nothing.

The point isn’t to sit around scared that He is going to ask you to leave your family because odds are, He won’t.  The point is to put in perspective what it means to follow His lead.   Obeying God should be our #1 priority.  Period. 

It should come before your comforts, your to-do lists, your schedules, your hobbies, your job,  your friends and even your family at times.  Making time for, talking to, listening to and obeying Jesus should be your #1 priority.  Today. Tomorrow. Everyday. 

What if at the top of your to-do list every single day you wrote “Obey Jesus” as #1?   Think how that could change your perspective, your priorities, your focus and your life.

Passionate About What Does Matter

The other day I was listening to a clip on the radio of the lead singer of Casting Crowns talk about their new song “Courageous”.  He talked about what sparked him to write this song.  He’s a youth pastor and he mentors to teenage boys and in doing so he has gotten to know many of the dads.  He said what he realized is that men today have gotten really passionate about what doesn’t matter and passive about what does matter.  Ouch.   He talked about how that can lead to the demise of our famlies and many other things and how men were made for so much more.  He was specific to fathers, but again, this message spoke to me as well, it should speak to all of us.  We were all made for more.

I definitely do NOT want to be passive about Jesus, and honestly He is all that should matter.  Every day.  Ever hour.  Every single second. Jesus.  Without Him you and I would have no hope for a future, we would struggle in our own sins and guilt forever and we would never be made new.  We would die and never know everlasting life. 

So we need to focus on being passionate about what does matter and passive about what doesn’t matter.  All the time.  If we put a lot of time into what makes us happy and less time in to Jesus, what are we saying is more important?

If we find time to read many things of this world, but no time for the Bible.  Again, where are our priorities? 

Do you spend more time filling yourself with Jesus or the world? 

Don’t be of the world, be in the world only to change it and to turn as many people as you can to Jesus Christ.  Period.   That is our job.

“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.”  Romans 12:2

Here is the video for the song courageous. 

For Such A Time As This

I’ve been a Christian now since 2005 and ever since God and I started getting to know each other, He has been putting on my heart that His plan for me is to work with young women.  For many of those years I just felt this on my heart,  and had no clue how it was going to happen or what it would look like.  Basically I had no idea where to begin.

Well, as always, God knew what He was doing all along.  He has literally been preparing me for “such a time as this” for really my entire life.   And the past few years He has been preparing my heart.   Last night began this journey for me.  The one God has been preparing me for.  I sat among 600+ college freshman at UT at a Young Life Club meeting late last night in a huge lecture room on UT’s campus.   It was incredible.  That’s all I can say.

I looked around the room and thought…wow!  All of these 18-year-old kids have their entire futures in front of them.  If only they could fully understand how much Jesus loves them and what they can do for Him if they just give their lives to Him now.  Not wait until they are 34 to do so, like I did. 

However, as I looked around the room and thought that, I knew exactly why God had chosen me to do this.  Because I can share with them the reasons God asks us to obey Him.  I can give them real and painful examples of what happens when we don’t.  I can also share with them what Grace really means and what it looks like.   I knew in those moments last night that I was there for a very specific reason and God planned it a long time ago.  And now it was so much clearer to me.

At church yesterday, Matt Carter said exactly that.   That we are here and live where we live because God planned it to be that way.  There is no other reason.  It is not an accident, it was planned.

Let me illustrate that a little bit.  Brian and I made some decisions last year that were made for a few particular reasons (or so we thought), but now I can see God orchestrating it all the entire time.  We sold our house and planned to move to Central Austin, the we got involved with a new church in Central Austin.  In doing so, I met someone who led  me to  College Young Life and the person in charge of the girl’s small groups (after a year of going to this new church).  Then my church merges with the largest college age church body in our city at the very same time I’m about to begin this journey.  

So, let me go over that again.   I now literally live 4 minutes from the UT campus,  my church has now merged  (as of 2 weeks ago) with the church that has the highest # of UT students, and I am now (as of two days ago) going to be a small group leader for College Young Life.    Happenstance?  I think not.  I know not.  God had this all in his back pocket way before he even put one teeny notion of working with young women on my heart. 

Today I will receive my list of girls.  The young women that will be in my small group.   I will have the opportunity to meet these girls next week and then love on them , guide them, share the love of Jesus with them, and be there for them for the next 4 years of their lives.  I cannot wait. 

God knows what He is doing.  Trust Him every step of the way. 

He will prepare you and when the time comes, you will also think to yourself that you are where you are  “for such a time as this”.  Just like Esther.

When God puts something on your heart, it’s not your job to think of the ways to get there.  Just listen and obey.  Do the next thing.  He won’t give you the destination, He’ll only give you the next leg of the trip.  Follow Him.

God Provides

I’m continually amazed with God and how He provides for us. One day I’ll have to write out our saga with money and how God has saved us so many times. The secret is to just trust Him. That’s it.

That’s what Brian and I have done over and over. We have gone through some times where we could’ve been really depressed, or gripped with fear. It could’ve made us fight and created tension between us. However, we refused for that to happen. We were determined to continue to trust God with everything we had and to continue tithing, just like He says to do. We have tested Him like he instructs us to do in the book of Malachi, and ever time, He has come through.

Whenever we need to pay something big, he comes through with money we weren’t expecting. I’m encouraging you to let go of fear and trust God with any money issue you have. Trust Him and continue to obey Him and tithe. You will be amazed, I promise.

For I Know The Plans

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ”  Jeremiah 29:11

This is one of my favorite verses, it’s so comforting and reassuring.  God cares enough about me to have plans for my life, and He actually thinks that what I do can be important….for His kingdom.  Those thoughts alone could get me through each day. 

Today during my quiet time God spoke this verse to me through the Holy Spirit.   At the end of my prayer to Him I sat quiet.  Which is what I always do.  I wait, very quietly to hear what He has to tell me.  And after I prayed for my job and for Brian’s job and what God has in store for us, all I heard was this verse and it gave me hope for sure.

It strengthens my trust in Him, when I’m reminded all I have to do is trust Him. 

God has put on my heart a few to-do’s for Him.  At least as of now, I believe this is where He is leading me.  I’m working on them and as it unfolds I will know for sure if I’m headed in the right direction.  For now, He just wants me to respond and obey to where I feel led and that’s what I plan to do. 

I’ll explain more later, when it’s time.  For now, I need to get busy with the “plans” God has for me.

Lukewarm

I take really hot showers.  I just like the water really hot. I notice my back is red sometimes when I get out of the shower because the water was so hot during my shower.   But that’s how I like it.  I think if you are going to take a shower, it should be HOT water.  It’s relaxing to me and it just feels right.  Lukewarm is irritating to me.  I hate how it feels.  I would rather just not take a shower then have the water be lukewarm.

This is how Jesus feels about some of us.  It’s irritating to him when we are lukewarm Christians. Which means we do a few things here and there that do obey God, but we aren’t ALL IN.  We are just lukewarm. We aren’t on FIRE with passion for Christ and wanting to live every single day with Him and for Him. 

Jesus actually says if we are lukewarm Christians, he wants to “spit us out of his mouth”.  Yikes.  That makes me cringe and it stirs some pretty strong convictions inside of me. 

A lot of times we cling to things that are not of God, that are not glorifying God in some way.  We cling to what is comfortable and safe and “feels good”.  That is when we are lukewarm about our faith. 

When we want God to fit into our lives, we are lukewarm. 

When we let God run our lives, and trust him completely with every single thing, we are All In.  When we are willing to get very uncomfortable on a constant basis ,then we are All In.    We are hot and that is where God wants us.  Not because He needs us, but because THAT is where we will find all the joy God has in store for us.  Having lukewarm faith will get you lukewarm results.

I need to turn up the heat and keep it there.