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Faith Dares

“We can afford to follow Him to failure. Faith dares to fail.” A.W. Tozer

Of Testimonies, Pedestals, and (Porcelain) Thrones

I used to clean houses part time so I got to spend quite a bit of time with toilets and I can guarantee you that I’ve seen them in just about every level of dirtiness.  I do not particularly want to go into detail on this (partly to spare y’all and partly because I would like to enjoy my meal) but just know that things can get pretty scary out there especially when the client does not own a toilet scrub brush. Yes, this means I think of my happy place, snap on the gloves and dive right into the porcelain throne.  It doesn’t matter how dirty things get, or how many times it gets soiled in a week, or how hard the client attempts to keep the toilet clean with an in-bowl cleaner (they’re gross, people. Don’t do them) I go in every week to give that bowl a good cleaning.

Now, you’ve probably read about toilets a little more than you’d like to at this point so allow me to digress to the beautiful, redemptive grace of God.  Many believers are reminded of God’s grace as they clean the same thing repeatedly, but something specific struck me the other day as I swished my toilet wand around the water.  I realized that no matter how dirty or clean a toilet is, I always go at it with the same tools, cleaner and technique.  Sometimes it requires a little extra elbow grease, but overall it’s the same process…inside-outside-top-to-bottom.

Isn’t God’s grace the same way?

No matter how dirty, or “great” our sin may seem to fellow man, God goes at us with the same cleansing grace starting with the inside and working outward.  He doesn’t have a special bottle of “extra heavy duty, sin removing grace” reserved for specific people.  That “extra heavy duty, sin removing grace” is for ALL of us. Now, some of us may live a life that has more opportunities for God to bestow grace, but it is still grace that is beyond myself and this world. As a believer I receive the same grace for my sin of complacency during my walk with the Lord that the believer who once allowed sex, drugs, and money to guide their choices in life receives.  Our human level of regret may be on different levels as well as the consequences that we experiences, but God still applies the same grace to our lives.  There is a large focus on “salvation being for everyone” which I believe to be true, but how quickly we lose that focus on grace when we begin sharing testimonies.  All of sudden believers begin “rating” each other and putting others on pedestals based off of the “severity” of their testimony.  While it should be celebrated how God pulled His children out of the bonds of their sinful lives, we need to be mindful to acknowledge that He pulled ALL of His children out of their sinful lives with the same grace.  So often I think “Well, my testimony is nothing like their’s…have I ever really experienced grace? They’re going to think “this or that” about me…” because I focused on what I had DONE and not the fact that it is by God’s grace that I am who I am.

I suddenly wanted to make my testimony more than it was…what?!? The grace that God gave me thus far in life wasn’t “enough??”

When did sharing testimonies become a game of comparison and not one of celebration?

Some people were saved from horror upon horror, others were saved from Sunday School and others were saved from  themselves, but we are all saved by the same grace.  Even once we have secured salvation in God, we constantly receive grace and go through sanctification.

There is no need to down play anyone’s testimony, but there is also no reason to put someone on a pedestal based on their testimony.  Celebrate! Acknowledge the beauty from ashes! But be careful to not bring the ugly, joy stealing comparison game to such a time.  The girl who grew up in church, accepted Christ at a young age, but has struggled with secret sexual sin while still walking with the Lord receives that same grace as the girl who grew up in an abusive home, had to raise her younger sibling, came to know the Lord in high school, didn’t follow Him through college, got into the party scene, had a near death experience, hit rock bottom and realized that God was the only one who could get her up.  That believer who is fighting depression and anxiety through grace needs to be celebrated just like the believer who is fighting financial debt through the grace of God.  All of it is sin that separates us from God. None of it can be removed without God’s grace.  A friend of mine has a “drastic” testimony that involved drugs, partying, and playing around with other religions, but he was intentional to not just include that aspect of his life in his testimony.  He went further back into middle school and high school when he recognized that his self-righteousness and pride took him away from the Gospel even as he was faithfully attending to church and “on fire for Jesus.”  He didn’t dismiss the fact that God’s grace had saved him from a life of destruction that included not only partying and hard consequences, but also the burden and sin of self-righteousness.  When we “rank” and compare the sin in our lives, we are essentially ranking and comparing the beautiful grace of God.

So, the next time you find yourself in a “testimony sharing” opportunity remember that we are all dirty toilets that get washed with the same grace filled brush every day.  .

Celebrate the grace, don’t compare the sin.

John 1:16 “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”

 

What the Book of Revelation Taught Me About Hope

I’ve been reading the Book of Revelation for about 3 months now and while I’ve gained more understanding of the book, I’ve also gained an overwhelming amount of more questions that, for now, go unanswered. One thing though that has predominantly stood out to me is the hope of Heaven and the sweet meeting of Jesus! There is a fair amount of ambiguity and confusion amidst the letter of prophetic apocalypse but this we know for sure: that we as saved sinners will finally see and interact with our Savior, Counselor, and Dear Friend.  

At the beginning of Revelation John describes seeing Jesus for the first time since His ascension. I can only imagine the sweet reunion as Jesus reassured John and guided him in his letters! During Christ’s time on Earth He and John had a special bond and John had spent his life for Jesus not knowing when he would see Him again. Imagine the joy and excitement! Being reunited with a beloved friend on earth exudes unexplainable feelings of relief, satisfaction, and heart bubbling joy so I cannot even begin to imagine the divine reunion of a holy friend. Through this reunion, John depicts a beautiful example of hoping and anticipating in Christ.  Oftentimes I have a feeling of being “incomplete” until I have a specific job, relationship, home, things, or whatever it may be but once I have whatever it is that I’m yearning for the hole in my heart for that specific desire is filled.  After reading John’s encounter with Jesus, I genuinely have a hole in my heart for Jesus that I’ve never had before and I long for the day where that void is completely filled when I finally get to be with him!

As believer, there are many glorious things about Heaven and I eagerly await the day of being reunited with my grandparents, but the thought of at last seeing Jesus and being with Jesus overcomes any other expectation. He has never abandoned me and is my ultimate Guide, Counselor, Gift Giver, Comforter, Instructor, and Teacher. I never have to explain myself to Him and He gives me a sole purpose in life. Nothing is beyond Him and He is never apathetic to my prayers.

Somehow in all of His sovereignty, He has a personal relationship with me.

I am tearing up while I consider how indescribably marvelous that time will be.

Nothing will compare.

Revelation is wonderful proof that our hope in Heaven and Jesus is not in vain. In fact, our hope is barely scratching the surface of what is to come.  We are human and our hope fluctuates depending on the world around us and the amount of earthly desires that are satisfied. John had absolutely nothing left in the world. He was the last Apostle alive, he was old, forced to do heavy labor in the mines, and kept in chains in a desolate cave. In addition to his personal trials, The Church was being persecuted, the spreading of Christianity had been scant for a few decades, and the Temple had been destroyed by the Romans. The world had utterly failed him.  John had a radical faith though and he continued to hope and anticipate his Beloved Friend and Savior.  I pray that as jobs, homes, people, politics, and even my own heart fail me that my hope and eagerness in Christ will only grow.  May I hope in Christ not just as a rescue from the broken world, but may my eager anticipation be based on the love relationship with Him that increases my yearning to just at long last be with my Dear Friend Jesus.

So, the next time you read the book of Revelation take time to find the hope.

 

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As a side note: I think that there will be mountains in Heaven. 🙂

 

Mountain Monday Motivation

Seriously.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Rock that crazy hair and have those wild dance parties to Taylor Swift with deer as your audience.

Do something slightly ludicrous and take. that. selfie.

Or say “no” to that thing that you don’t really want to do and it’s not crucial for you to do so you can have that cozy, at home time.(Saying no is often seen as quite a daring feat these days. It’s not a bad word. Use it when you need to.)

Quit unnecessarily explaining yourself to others.

Own up to your life. It’s the life that God gave you. Give God glory for those spectacular moments and feel the growing pains of sanctification.

Wear those crazy shoes. Rock that “over-the-top” outfit that makes you feel like a warrior princess. You wanna wear white at an “inappropriate” time of year? Then do it.

Pray in public.

Talk to strangers. (I’m terrible at this one. But that’s OK. 🙂 )

Because freedom in Christ will give you daring perspective.

Yes, the Bible does clearly instruct us to live a God glorifying life but last I checked we shouldn’t sweat the small, nonessential stuff (like whether or not we should have solo car dance parties Jesse McCartney as adults…yeah, there’s nothing in the Bible about that one. Just don’t wreck.)

(Also, all of this sounds more deep and dramatic than I really am. Just trying to share that inspiration we all need some (every) day. And, confession, I don’t have this whole “freedom” thing down at all. For example, I’m too “nervous” about telling more than 2 of my friends about this blog. Definitely letting fear of man dictate that one and one day I’m sure I’ll get over myself, but not today. Also, freedom in the feelings department is hard. Hi, I’m 26 years old and feelings are scary for me. To be perfectly honest.)

Thankful for this friendship that taught me the chain breaking, shame squelching verse Galatians 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free!”

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My Coffee is Stronger Than Me

 

 

It has become real popular to write about being in your 20’s. These posts typically include some kind of analogy, testimony, talk about the struggles of being 20-something, and ultimately finding freedom in life from whatever you feel is holding you captive. I get it and, honestly, relate to many aspects of posts I read however, I’ll never get around to writing a real, edited, well-organized post about 20-something for various reasons (#1 obvious reason being how could I possibly find true inspiration when I cant afford a $5 cup of black coffee to sip at the local coffee shop while writing? I suppose that my messy living room, robe, unbrushed hair and teeth, and a sense of rush before I head off to one of my p/t jobs will have to suffice. Thanks for sticking with my my obvious inspiration-less, coffee-less dud of a post. Nothing works without coffee.) so I’ll just sum it all up with the conclusion that I consistently arrive at when mulling over this time of life:

Not “having it together” is a common feeling among fellow 20-somethings and ultimately, I pray that I NEVER feel like I “have it together.” If there ever is a day when I feel like everything in my life finally fits together like a puzzle piece is the day that I will not need Jesus and that is a tragedy, my friends. May I always feel a struggle to fit my life’s puzzle together so that I am reminded of my weakness and how much I need JESUS every moment (oops, did I just do a cute analogy?) Jesus brings me through uncertainty, frustration, feelings of FAILURE, outright fear, and even through the despairing, teary eyed afternoon spent trying to find insurance affordable enough for me to pay for out-of-my-own-pocket. (Slipping in that solidarity testimony) I cannot fathom what it must feel like to experience a vague time of life without the certainty of my salvation and a purpose for living.  The days where I am plagued by things of this world and I cannot in my weakness hold up against it, may I remember grace.

Grace upon grace. (John 1:16)

I hope my life is always a tad messy with loads of uncertainty in this of this world, opportunities to glorify God, and to acknowledge that the jumbled days are reminders as to why I need Jesus and grace.

Talk about some real freedom. (Hey look, I even got a token “freedom” line)

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

 

 

Set to 350° for 20 years…or, uh, 20 minutes.

Divine timing.  All in God’s time.  God doesn’t run on our time.

But God’s prep work is always long term, right?

So often I wonder how God is going to use the situation that I am in later on in my life.  I have the mindset that whatever God is going to use it for will be waaaaaay later on in life, because it takes years for God to prepare me for something, right? I mean, Abraham and Sarai didn’t have children until they were OLD, the decades that Moses spent raised as a prince prepared him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt,  John the Baptist and Jesus both didn’t start their official ministry until they were in their 30’s so God obviously takes a looooooong time to prepare people for BIG things. After all, I have to completely understand what God wants me to do so that I can follow His plan fully.

But, wait a minute, isn’t this me limiting God into my close minded timeline and my actions?

God can do whatever He wants but He has to take years to do it?

That’s a little ironic.

About a year ago, God lead me to Acts 10 that demonstrated how He really does work on His own time frame.  In this passage God uses a vision to prepare Peter (a Jew) for an opportunity that would happen that day to witness to Gentiles.  The vision which Peter experiences shortly before lunch is described in verses 11-14. After the vision, Peter resists what God shows him three times (verse 16.)  As a Jew, Peter had followed the Law his whole life and now God was telling him to not just break the Law but to also witness to the Gentiles who were considered unworthy of the Gospel.  After he resists he ponders what he is to do and is perplexed (verses 17-19) all the while God brings Gentiles to his door at that very moment.  It was at this point in the passage that it hit me that God uses years to prepare some people for His work and others He uses mere moments.  God had just provided a vision to prepare Peter to preach to the Gentiles when two Gentiles came knocking on his door. There wasn’t much lag time at all. Peter was still mulling over what he saw for goodness sake! He still didn’t fully understand what God was telling him before God gave him an opportunity to follow up on the vision.  I know my immediate reaction would have been “Hold up, God.  How can I be fully prepared for this if I still have questions, and I have LOTS of questions! This is gonna take a few years for me to process. Tell the Gentiles to come back then.” God tells Pete in verse 20 to “Rise up and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.”  You know what, Peter did just what God had prepared and told him to do. No hesitation.  He still didn’t fully understand what was going on but knew what it meant to be faithful. God used what Peter needed on that moment to prepare him and as he accepted Gods invitation God supplied him just what he needed at the right now.  If you keep reading to Acts 11:18, you can see the big picture and how God used Peter’s faithfulness and obedience to bless the church.

So often in my “open mindset” of God taking years to prepare me for something, I lose sight of here-and-now opportunities that maybe He just prepared me for the day or week before.  God has strongly placed the concept of faith and what that looks like on my heart for about 3 years now.  Sometimes He prepares me for ministry opportunities, or tough conversations, or a move, or job change, or a new relationship.  I am consistently finding ways of how God has used those years of studying faith to prepare me for situations.  Specifically, I have recognized how He has molded my mindset of faith to allow God to use whatever time frame He deems necessary to prepare me for His work.  A couple of months ago God used a conversation that my friend and I had about how I needed to reach out to others for help more often to prepare me for a wreck that would happen less than a week later.  There have been other situations in my life that God has obviously used a short amount of time to prepare me for something and instead of making excuses, dragging my feet, using doubt as an excuse I have been able to recognize the opportunity and follow in faithful obedience. God is actively at work in my life right now, I need to abide in Him and be aware of where He is working.

To bring it all together: God doesn’t always use years to prepare us for tough situations or for His work, sometimes He just prepares us in moments.  He also doesn’t always wait for us to “have it together” and understand exactly what He wants of us and that’s where we step out in faithful obedience.

Are you aware of how God is active in your life right now and are you ready to step out in faith right now with what He has used to prepare you?

 

 

Happy Fistbump Friday!

“May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in His works”

Psalm 104:31

 

Happy Fistbump Friday!

Tunesday- Sometimes by Step

I have the utmost respect for Rich Mullins as a musician and individual. One thing I admire about him is how much he knew he needed Jesus and he was quick to acknowledge the depravity of mankind without the Gospel. This song came to mind while I was writing yesterday’s post and I thought I’d share.

Mountain Monday: One Step At A Time

I have learned some valuable lessons through my hikes and outdoor “expeditions.” Most of the time I’m just enjoying creation around me, doing anything to ignore the blister on my heel or thinking about what kind of campfire meal will be going down that night, but occasionally I have a few thoughts. One of these thoughts tend to show up during a long run or tedious hike when I’m just ready to quit and it tends to come out verbally, just above a whispering groan as:

“one foot in front of the other.”

No one summits mountains in leaps and bounds.  Climbers who attempt Mt. Everest spend as much time descending the mountain to adjust to the altitude than they do ascending to cover ground.  In no way can they rush their repetitive journey or else they are guaranteed serious side effects. Even if we could take leaps and bounds, would we want to and miss the journey just to get to our destination? We might not appreciate every step along the path, but the only options are to turn around or keep going.  Both of them require a step-by-step journey and downhill can be just as strenuous as uphill. Sometimes we become too consumed by the end goal that we want to rush through the path, missing the beautiful lake or sunset. If we continue on our journey, before we know it, we are looking back down the mountain from the summit to see the journey that we took one step at a time.  Isn’t that how we are suppose to live?

Day by day.

Step by step.

Not rushing through any moments.

We can respond in faith and risk failure along our journey for we know that our security is in Christ and we will fall into His grace. We don’t have to be thrilled walking through the blisters and crossing the risky streams of life, but they are a part of the journey that God has placed us on and we are to bring Him glory in everything.  There are stages of doubt, anxiety, straight up “not knowing,” anticipation, waiting and complete failure.  There might be stage in a relationship you have with someone (significant other, sibling, friend or parent) that you are experiencing that you wish would pass. I am currently in a “I have no clue”/waiting/restless stage and I praise God that He is directing my steps.  Some days I don’t even know what it looks like to bring Him glory in my situation but my faith grows in Him as I offer jumbled prayers and seek peace. I do know that, by te grace of God, I do not need to know the full picture of my situation/life/experience. I have the full picture of the Gospel and that is enough to get me through one step at a time.

Unfortunately my “one foot in front of the other” mindset tends to only come when I am experiencing less-than-ideal situations. I forget that even the perfectly fine, routine, normal days/stages should be taken by steps. So often, during times of just plain goodness, I find myself focusing on the future steps that lead to a more exciting time of life.  It’s fine to get excited about things to come, but don’t let it take away from your focus on the here and now.  Christ came so that we live life and live it abundantly! (John 10:10)  Wishing for days or weeks or stages of relationships to end is not living abundantly. We all force situations or manipulate things to be “my way” and that is not living abundantly.  That is living for our own glory and that is not why Christ came.  Seize every moment, all of them as the insividual gifts that they are. Don’t seize them as an hour, a day, a timeline, or a book. Seize minute-by-minute, conversation-by-conversation, page-by-page. The dark, the painfully normal, the exciting, and the uncertain ones should all be fully lived. Live abundantly and glorify God through it all with your cries of thankfulness and anguish as you acknowledge the power of His grace and how hopeless you would be without Him.

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Psalm 37:23 says “The STEPS of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in His way, though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong for the LORD upholds his hand.”

Mountain Monday

There is quite a bit that I could say about mountains. They cause an aggressive stir in my heart that feels as if little snappy firecrackers are exploding. I could go on about how they are such a breath taking inspiration and the beautiful analogies that they provide for life and our spiritual walk. I could go on for a long time…BUT! Tonight I just want to share their beauty and hope that it helps wrap up your Monday. (Plus, I’m writing from my phone because I’m much too comfy on my couch to go next door for  wifi to post from my CPU…honesty hour, folks.)

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Mountains of Belize
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Seeing these guys going west means that mountains are getting closer!
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How-to cross a river with a child: fling me over the shoulder and don’t lose your balance. One of my favorite sights on my trip. 
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Along the Continental Divide on Mt. Hope 

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