Friday, August 30, 2013

My Mature Thoughts (Since I am Now 25)

     This week I turned 25. So I guess this is about the time where I should freak out about my age because I am half way to 50. But, honestly, I love that my age is starting to catch up with my lifestyle. I am a serious homebody. I was married a couple months before I turned 20, so I have never done the party/bar/club scene. I started helping in youth ministry before I was 21... so people have been treating me like an "old married person" for years. I am just happy that I am finally getting to the age where I should stop having to answer the question "Why do you act so old?" (Now, if only teenagers would stop asking me which high school I go to).

     But on a more serious note, I have been very conscious of how blessed I am. I have an amazing and loving family. My siblings all typically get along and my parents are godly examples. Soon my brother and his wife will be welcoming a daughter into our family. Basically, my family is just awesome.

     The blessing that I have been the most conscious of lately is that of the church. I am so thankful that God gave us the church. The congregation that Jacob and I attend has been a huge blessing to use. The people there have really ministered to our family during my sister's illness. They have prayed for and with us. They have supported us when were were struggling with the questions of "why?" We have opportunities to minister and serve others. I have known some of the people at my church since I was a child. And there are newer people who have become near and dear to my heart. I have been blessed by the solid doctrinal teaching that I have received in sermons, Sunday school, and youth group. I have been pushed to grow because the people around me are not content being stagnant in their faith. I love my local church!

     But the church is so much bigger than the number of people who worship in the same building as me. I know countless people across the country who have prayed for my sister and my family. I am encouraged on a daily basis by Facebook friends who are ministering to people through the gifts that God has given them. I am heart broken and emboldened by believers in other countries who face persecution and sacrifice because they will not compromise the message of the Gospel.

     I am so thankful that the Lord did not call us to live out the Gospel by ourselves. I am thankful that God does not ask us to fly solo. I am thankful that I am a part of a worldwide mission to bring the Truth to people. I am thankful that I have people who are more mature in their faith who show me godliness, and I am pushed to grow because there are younger people that I do not want to give a poor example.

     Life was not meant to be lived in isolation. It is a group effort. We encourage each other, love each other, pray for each other, correct, minister, teach, and comfort each other.

     Let us be active. Let us open our eyes to the needs around us and do something! Let us remember that life isn't really about us.

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?" And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."
-Matthew 25:37-40

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Prayer for a Friend

     Lately, my heart has been heavy. Over the past several months, it has come to my knowledge that several young people that I care deeply about and poured my life into are no longer walking with the Lord. When I have spoken to them about their life choices, one word has continued to show up: feeling. I have heard
If I feel happy, then I think it is ok.
I just feel like the Bible doesn't apply here.
I think God just wants me to feel happy.
I feel like I don't know what is right and what is wrong. Who can say?

     It breaks my heart because they are not basing their actions and beliefs on logic or reason. They have abandoned their quest for the Truth and have settled for whatever feels good. In a search for love and value, they have forsaken The One who can truly offer those things.

     The Bible clearly states that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). If my heart is corrupt and deceitful, then my feelings are going to lie to me. It is only in the truth, which is constant, that we should base our decisions on.

     So I have appealed to these young people. I have reaffirmed that I love them. But I cannot make choices for them. So now I pray. I pray for protection. I pray for deliverance. I pray for them to be brought back to Christ.

Casting Crowns - A Prayer for a Friend 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Back to the Grind

     I have just returned home from a wonderful trip to Wisconsin with the majority of my family. Unfortunately, my husband and my younger brother could not make the trip with us due to their work schedules, but the rest of my family was able to view some beautiful scenery, see several tourist attractions, and eat wonderful food. Yet, even through the trip, my resolve to be thankful and grateful for God's blessings was put to the test.

     See, right now, life seems to be shrouded by a dark cloud of eminent doom. A haunting question that hangs over my family. Is this the last time? Is this the last trip I will go on with my sister? If it is, did I spend enough time with her? Why didn't I take more pictures with her? Did I show her that I love her?

     All these thoughts swirl through my head and coat my memories with a bitter-sweet feeling. Because of all this, I think I have been learning that joy is a choice. I have known this for a long time, and from and early age I was taught that "happiness is an emotion, but joy is a state of mind." However, as of late, I have really been required to put that knowledge into practice. Having joy really comes from putting life into perspective. It comes from, once again, refocusing on what is true.

1. This life is not the end. I know I have talked about this before, but it is truly one of my deepest comforts. At some point, I will lose my sister in this life. It may be a year or 30 years, but at some point we will die. But this life is not all there is. For those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, death is the beginning of eternal life - an eternal life spent with our Lord and Savior. Paul writes,
            So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we              are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:6-8). 
For the believer, death is a homecoming. It is the end of pain and suffering and the beginning of true joy and peace.

2. The pain, sorrow, and fear I feel now are temporary. Life is short. It is a momentary breath compared to eternity. At times, life seems cruel and overwhelming. It feels like it is too painful, too hard, too difficult. Life seems to kick us while we are down. At times, it feels like everything in life is attempting to break our spirit. But those moments are short. Those moments are, just that, momentary. Paul again reminds us,
     So we do not loose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being                renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal                weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to things that are seen but to the things      that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Times of suffering are moments of brevity. They are not even worth comparing to the joy of eternal life with my Redeemer.

     It is to these truths that I, once again, cling. I think this is another thing that the Lord has really been teaching me - I have a deep need for The Truth. For as long as I can remember, I have know that Jesus said "you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). But I have always thought of this verse in reference to being tangled in your own web of lies. However, I am now learning that in every situation, the truth is liberating. I am learning to daily fix my eyes on the truth and cling to it in times of struggle and in times of blessing. It is only in the truth that joy can be found.