Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"He has told you what is good"- Brian's Sermon on Micah 6:1-8


Dark, indeed, were the days in which Micah of Moresheth was called to preach to the children of Israel.  When his ministry began, the sun was about to set on the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah looked little better.  Kings, nobles, and even priests had turned from the one true God to worship idols made of wood and stone, even burning their children on firey alters.  But our God refused to let his people remain in the darkness.  Through the prophet Micah, God called to the people, reminding them that He is righteous and kind, and that they should be the same.
            In verses 1 through 5 of our text, God calls His people to court.  Hear what the Lord says:  Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.  Hear you mountains, the indictment of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth, for the Lord has an indictment against his people, and he will contend with Israel.  As He calls for the people to state their case, He begins by stating His.
            O my people, what have I done to you?  How have I wearied you?  Answer me!  For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.  O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may see the righteous acts of the Lord.  God is effectively asking the people: Why are you sinning?  Have I been unfair to you?  Have I been stingy or mean?  Have I gone back on my promises?  No!  Nevertheless, God calls in evidence of His gracious character by recounting His righteous acts.  Just like in many of the Psalms, God points back to the Exodus to remind His people what He has already done for them.  God mentions how He delivered them from slavery in Egypt, led them through the wilderness, and went ahead of them into the promised land, blessing them with freedom, good leaders, and victory over their enemies.  ---
When you think about it, sinning makes no sense in light of God’s kindness.  That’s the point God is making here.  ‘I have treated you so well,’ He says, ‘why have you rebelled against Me?’ 
            Interestingly, the apostle Paul makes exactly the same argument in Romans chapter 6.  What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin, that grace may abound?  By no means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  Look at God’s righteous acts, Paul is saying.  Remember that in Baptism God connected you with the death and resurrection of Christ—which is His most recent and also most glorious righteous act in history.  Remembering what Jesus did for us makes sinning look ridiculous.
            Sadly, the speaker in verses 6 and 7 has no idea about the real nature of sin or salvation.  Listen to him: With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  Sounds good, right?  Is this man really repenting?  Perhaps a bit about the nature of Old Testament sacrifices would help us find out.
            The sacrifices which God laid out in the book of Leviticus had two distinct purposes.  The first type consisted of those offered voluntarily, like peace offering and free will offerings.  These sacrifices were simply God-ordained ways for the Israelites to express worship and thanksgiving.  This notion lives on in our own era, as the book of Hebrews says, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.  The present equivalent of these ancient animal sacrifices are good works, done by believers in response to God’s kindness. 
            The second type of sacrifices consisted of those offered to cleanse, whether of some ceremonial uncleanness or of actual sin.  The sin offering and the guilt offering both fell into this category.  These sacrifices were attached to promises from God.  The most sweeping of all these promises was for the Day of Atonement: For on this day atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you.  You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins. 
            The sacrifices that the speaker in our text suggests are of neither category.  The fact that the speaker suggests offering his own children clearly shows that he is neither clinging to God’s promises nor giving thanks.  The type of sacrifices he suggests is utterly abominable to God.  In fact, the attitude behind them is present in every false religion and frequently creeps into Christianity.  It is at the core of our sinful human nature.  These sacrifices proceed from the depraved depths of the human heart, thinking that something they can offer to God will appease His wrath and purchase His favor.   
            I want you to take a minute and think of a time in the past when you sinned, the more recent the better.  Now, what did you do after you sinned?  “Well, at least I didn’t go that far.”  “Next time, I’ll do such and such to prevent myself from doing this again.”  “God, I promise I’ll never do that again.”  Perhaps you busied yourself with other things, or made sure that you have extra long devotions that day.  Perhaps you prayed more or harder.  Or, even worse, perhaps you thought, ‘Yeah, I sinned, but I got an A on that paper or I just prayed for my lost relative or I just shared the Gospel with somebody last week.’  These things are utterly abominable to God.  Micah tells us why.
            Verse 8: He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?  Micah summarizes the Law of the Lord with beautiful Hebrew poetry.  Steven already preached to us on this profound topic, and Dustin mentioned it last week.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might, and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The point of God’s law is not a certain set of external behaviors, although they are most certainly included.  The point is what Malcolm (our guest speaker from Haiti) called a “posture toward God.”  In effect, God wants your innermost being to be bent towards Him at all times, in all things, and despite all temptations.  This love for God and neighbor should be so great and so deep that even the most inexpensive selfish purchase or seemingly harmless word of gossip or text message during class would be utterly unthinkable.  If you had love like that in your heart, you’d read the story of the Good Samaritan and think, ‘Yeah, I’d totally do that.  Makes perfect sense.’  Instead, we make excuses and rationalize our inner desire to love ourselves and not our neighbor, and to leave God out of the picture entirely.
            Listen again to Micah’s words.  He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?  The first thing Micah lists is do justice.  Since he says do, this basically means external good deeds.  In the context, God rebukes the Israelites for cheating in their business dealings and accepting bribery.  My guess is that these are not temptations you deal with on a regular basis, but here’s what doing justice might look like for you: paying your taxes, faithfully attending your classes and doing your homework, working diligently for your employer, and obeying traffic laws.  We have a tendency to spiritualize “good deeds” into meaning evangelism and prayer and devotions, but beyond these, God’s desire for justice touches every area of your day-to-day life.
            Secondly, Micah turns inward and tells us to love kindness.  Our word kindness is the Hebrew word hesed, which is often translated “love,” “steadfast love,” or “mercy.”  Here we see close connection with the Great Commandment which I mentioned already.  Micah is telling us that God wants us to have an inner bent or heart-attitude that delights in loving God and neighbor, and, on the flip side, delights in being loved by God and neighbor.  Interestingly, our natural tendency is to avoid anything to do with this commandment.  We don’t want to need kindness from other people.  Have you ever needed help for something, but were afraid to ask for it, and thinking to yourself, ‘Oh, I don’t want to bother him.’  Have you ever accidentally run into someone and then apologized profusely even after they said they forgave you?  We just don’t want to need other people’s kindness.  If we can be the giver of kindness, that makes us feel okay about ourselves. 
            Thirdly, Micah tells us to walk humbly with your God.  This one, interestingly enough, is the exact opposite of what the speaker was suggesting.  To walk humbly with your God involves recognizing that you can’t give Him anything He hasn’t already given you.  I’d like to ask this guy from verses 6 and 7 where he was going to get thousands of rams or ten thousands of rivers of oil besides from the creation, which already belongs to God!  Recognizing that you have nothing to offer God is foundational to walking humbly with Him.
            The flip side of that same reality is that God has offered everything to you in Jesus Christ.  Verse 7 asks, Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  The answer is a resounding no.  In fact, it is God who gave His Firstborn to you!  It is precisely because we cannot offer God anything that the Son of God came to us in our helplessness and offered Himself to the Father on our behalf.  ---
Walking humbly with your God means recognizing that you have nothing to offer Him, but that in Jesus Christ, He has given everything to you.

            This afternoon, God calls to you, reminding you that He is righteous and kind, and that you should be the same.  Sinning makes no sense at all in light of God’s kindness, but when you do sin, don’t try to make up for it or excuse it.  Know that you have nothing to offer God, but that He has given everything to you in His Son.  Then go, do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.  Amen.                           Let us pray.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Expository on Today's Extra-Biblical Teachings: Intro: The Return of the 1500' Catholic Church... in today's Church



Today I was reading Matthew 9 when I came across a section of verses that I have read many times before and have been taught in Sunday School:

And as Jesus, reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” -vs 10-13

I always had read this to mean that Jesus was basically saying, "I'm here to help the sick, which these people obviously are. Y'all are good, so get out of my hair." Whereas there are some good things that could be learned from that perspective, which I can remember hearing growing up, such teaching could not be pulled from this passage correctly... because that is not what Jesus was saying at all.

I never got this before and it's totally setting off a train of lightbulbs! Take a look again at when Jesus said, "Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' " To what was He referring? Don't worry. I didn't know either till I heard my husband's sermon on Micah 6:1-8 (which I can post on this blog if anyone wants to hear it) which speaks to this principle. The people had been living contrary to the Lord, and when He confronted them, they retaliated by asking what He wanted. Their houses and land? Their children? Sacrifices? His oh-so-famous response being: 

"He has told you, O man, what is good;

    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,

    and to walk humbly with your God?" -vs 8

The point here is, the people of Israel were offering external obedience and good works while God was telling them that they had missed the entire point. God sees the heart, and that is what He desires. 

When Jesus said this to the Pharisees, He was 1) condemning them for missing the entire point of the Law, making it about their performance and ability to obey it outwardly, when the point was to draw the Isrealites to the Lord and point forward to the Cross, and 2) worse still, teaching the people to do the same. He was, in fact saying, that the Pharisees were just as sinful as anyone in the room that they were condemning. I find it interesting that they asked why Jesus was hanging out with "sinners", as though they themselves were not... were above that... the original "holier-than-thous". Talk about missing the entire point! 

There are some other examples in Scripture of someone doing the same, primarily the older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son as he was upset when his younger "wayward" brother was accepted with open arms, and Jonah's outrage at the redemption of Ninevah. 

An example in history would be the Catholic church at the time of Martin Luther. The Church had gotten so wrapped up in tradition, the letter of the law, and outward symbols of piety, that they missed the entire point of Scripture to the all-time-low of selling salvation for money!!! 

Unfortunately, there are many beliefs that the "modern" church will hold to that are going down the same road. Yes, I forsee another Catholic-church-like fiasco in no more than 100 years. And I'm not talking about churches that condone homosexuality or anything else so blatantly unBiblical... no, I'm talking about the conservative churches that we and our grandparents attend. We are seen by the outside world as judgemental and exclusive.. holier-than-thou. The reality is not only are they usually right, but this stems from our very core: our doctrine. Yes. Our doctrine discreetly teaches, below even our radar, that we don't need Jesus. That we don't need the Gospel. That being pious is enough for salvation. That we can get to heaven by doing, saying, experiencing the right things. Sure, we say salvation by grace alone through faith.... but that's not what we teach, believe, or live. 

I intend to spend the next few posts exposing these doctrines for what they are: heresy. No, it is not my intentions to tell the entire world that I'm right, or to attempt to right past hurts by my own twist on theology. What I do intend is share the Truth in hopes to not only help others see the Light, but to set them free from their extra-biblical teachings. The very teachings that I would argue are the primary reason for people leaving the Church and the general state of apathy or misery among those who remain. Finally, and honestly, I want to share proper teachings because it is sinful and very destructive to do otherwise. 

"They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders...It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin."- Matthew 23:4, Luke 17:2 


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Fruit of Who?


"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" -Galatians 5:22

As a kid, I did not feel loved by my parents. It wasn't their fault, don't get me wrong. I've always been a person who loves others but has a hard time feeling loved. Why? I have no clue. My parents have always loved me very much and done everything they can to show it to me. I just happen to be incredibly stubborn and hard-headed and, consequently, didn't really see their love until sometime in the last year. You see, I didn't understand the meaning of "relationship". Having a relationship with someone always meant pleasing them to me. This was never more true than when it came to my parents. I was obsessed with pleasing my parents as a kid. That sounds wonderful in theory, but it practice... it's miserable. I spent every second of my childhood wondering, "Will Mom be happy with me when I do this?" or "What would Dad think of me if he could see me right now?" Very quickly, everything became about does and don'ts, all the way down to the stupidest little things. If Mom had ever said at any point in my life not to do something, it was now in the little law book that I carried around in my head. It wasn't that I love rules and regulations....honestly, I hate them. It was because it was the only solid way I could think of to please my parents. Sure, I learned a lot from that little imaginary book. "Hang clothes on the line instead of using the dryer, it saves money." "Heat food on the stove, not in the microwave, as the microwave drains nutrients." "Don't leave dishes in the rack on the counter as they make the kitchen look cluttered." But, it also robbed me of 20 years of relationship with my parents. Not only that, but I tried to get my siblings to do the same as I was doing my best to make sure they didn't get hurt, that Mom and Dad approved of them, that they would live what I thought was a happy life. I spent all that time deathly afraid of them getting mad at me and ultimately disapproving of me, when all they wanted to love me and for me to love them back. 

Now that I think about it... don't we do that with God? We wear these t-shirts that say, "It's not about religon, it's about a relationship" and yet go on to make it exactly that. We believe that if we don't go to church every week, read our Bibles every day, hang out with "churchy people", and live every day on fire for Him, that there's something wrong with us... we're not "good Christians". We have to try harder, be better, do more. We have to go to Challenge, mission trips, and help out at homeless shelters. We have to evangelize to the cashier at Walmart and hand out Bible tracts to the people on the street. We have to live sinless lives and if... gasp!!!... we were to fall or fail, we have to pick ourselves back up and make sure we never do it again. Those t-shirts are about as true about most of us as the t-shirts that cynically say, "They'll know we're Christians by our t-shirts."

So, what are we supposed to do? What about those days when we're not all out sold for Christ? When we lose our focus on Him? When suddenly the world falls apart and we fall....bad... what do we do? 

Well, I'll tell you what we usually do. We pray and ask God, "Help me to be better" and we go to our leaders at church and they tell us to try harder and to move the obstacles out of our way. So, we pull ourselves back to our feet and push harder, harder, harder. We fall and we fall again, only to fall once more. A vicious circle of the well-intentions of following Christ and being on fire for Him. 

Yeah...that works really well. I can say this sarcastically because I've been there. In fact, I spent most of my life there, and I've seen where it leads. Going back to the example of my parents, I followed that rule book to the letter day after day after day. Yet, to my surprise, I didn't feel any more loved... in fact, I felt farther from them. I would slip up and I was worse off than I was the day before. I couldn't keep up and I couldn't get anywhere. I began to see that there was a fault somewhere....but I blamed in on them. I decided they were impossible to please. That they would always disapprove of me (even though they didn't) and would never really love me (even though they had all along). And, in order to try to save my siblings from the immense pain I was feeling, I began to try to convince them of the same. I feel so horrible now, looking back. I eventually had to leave my home because I was a very bad influence on them (obviously) and never really recovered from the ultimate rejection and loss of love that I felt from a probably wise decision. I took a few months to pick myself back up and to straighten up, at which time I was allowed back... only to fall into the same pattern again. I hadn't really fixed anything... I had just tried to fix it myself. 

About the same time, the same thing happened with God. I had tried to be the perfect Christian that I believed I had to be and failed...and failed... and failed. I felt further from God every time I failed until He couldn't have felt further away. I finally felt, after going through the same thing with my parents, that I wasn't good enough. I couldn't do it. Here was the standard, and I was too much of a screw-up to get to it. No matter how much time I gave myself, it was only going to get worse. This is when I started to think about suicide. I knew I was saved, so God had to let me into heaven....even if it was begrudgingly. I had failed everyone and there was no other option left. 

And even if you disagree with everything I say after this... YOU CAN'T IGNORE IT. Why? Because I'm not the only one who has felt this way. I have had so many campers come to Hidden Acres with this exact problem. They're told that they have to be all out for Christ, but they also know they can't be. So, they're on the road to giving up.... whether that means rejection of God and the Church completely, or of life. People wonder why so many have left the Church and why even more refuse to join. From my experience, and from talking to hundreds, if not thousands, of people about this, either personally or over the internet, this is why. We are told that we can be saved if we ask Jesus into our hearts. Then we are told that this is what a "true Christian" looks like. If you're not a "true Christian", you are lukewarm and He will spit you out. There is forgiveness of sins...to an extent. So when you fall, try harder. And...it doesn't work. Why? Because that's not the way Christianity is supposed to work. 

Christianity is about a relationship, but not the kind we're living. We are no different than the Pharisees when we are living this way...actually I would argue that we're worse. At least they were, mostly, living their lives by the Law laid down in the Torah. Us? We're just living our lives by the law laid down by....us. There is really no difference here. That is not faith, that is not a relationship. That is works and that is legalism. Go ahead... yell at me. Call me a heretic. Yep, go ahead. Get it all out. But please, when you're done.... keep listening. 

Let's see what the Bible says. "But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved...So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." -Romans 10:8-10, 17 These verses are a little confusing in the order that they're in... probably because the Romans had a different thought process than us, but here's what Paul is saying. If we confess with our mouth and believe in our hearts Jesus is Lord, we will be saved. But, how can we do that unless we know what we are confessing and believing? And how can we know (have faith), unless we hear? And what to do we need to hear? The word of God (P.S. Great passage for missionaries). So, God uses His Word to show us Himself and to give us faith and that is how we receive salvation. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."-Romans 1:16  "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."- Ephesians 2:8-9

Our salvation comes by faith, not works. And we receive faith through the Holy Spirit. It isn't a result of our works or anything we have done, but rather through the grace of God. The Bible also says, though I can't quite remember where, that when we are saved something called the "Great Exchange" happens. That means that all our sin, past-present-future, is put on Jesus and all His righteousness is put on us. When God looks at us, He isn't mad at us or disappointed in us. He doesn't think we're failures. When we receive faith, we jointly receive His favor. The two come hand in hand. Not because we're cool and awesome, but because Jesus's merit is put on us. "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." -Hebrews 4:16 We are now His children. "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God."-Galatians 4:4-6 

We are His children. Think about that for a second. Let's go back to my parents. I learned, after leaving home and being on my own for awhile, that my parents do love me. Always have. Always will. Why? Because I'm their child. My mom says that when I was born, she was laughing and crying at the same time. They gave me the middle name "Joy" because I brought them so much of it. And... you know what? God feels the same way about us. Don't believe me? 
"The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing."
-Zephaniah 3:17
Not only is God not disappointed in you, not only is He not mad at you.... He rejoices over you with singing! He loves you so much (yes, you) that He sent His only Son, His most precious treasure, to die for you. He loves you so much, He looks at your helplessness and He is the One who makes you who He intended you to be. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" -Galatians 5:22 It's the fruit of the Spirit...not the fruit of Leeanna or whatever your name is. He is the One who gives us faith. He is the One who gives us love and self-control. He is the One who does...everything! 

When we received salvation, we brought our sin to the Cross and left it there. We entrusted Him to take care of it. How? He gave us the ability to do it in the first place! It's the same with our lives. All the Law depends on this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”- Matthew 22:36-40 And how to we love God in the first place? Same way we have faith in the first place! He gives it to us. Yes, I know. It seems circular and kinda...crazy. But, "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" -Romans 11:33 God is so cool...sometimes we don't understand Him. Actually....most of the time we don't understand Him. We're like little kids who wonder why their dad doesn't drive like a rocket scientist when we all know he could, or why our mom says we have to sleep when all know it's no fun. We don't have to understand, we just have to trust. (P.S. He gives us that too). In John 15, Jesus says, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." Not "you will try" or even "you'll be really good at". Nope. You will. When we're loving God, we're following His commandments, for sin is naught but us taking over and saying we know better and we're not going to listen. 

How does the Bible say we are identified as Christians? "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”-John 13:35 Gasp! It doesn't say "if you go to church", "if you read your Bible everyday", or "if you on mission trips." Nope. Those things are all wonderful, but our life isn't motivated by dos or don't-dos. Nope. That motivation simply gets us further into despair. Our lives our motivated by the love of Jesus Christ and the work He has done for us. 

So, when you are on fire for Christ, thank Him for the passion... He gave it to you. When you are going through life with peace in your heart, thank Him... He gave it to you. When you sin, no matter how bad, lay it at the foot of the Cross. It's already paid for. It's already forgiven. It's already gone. And then trust Him, by His grace, to cause you to grow His fruit. Love, peace, patience, etc. He smiles on you. Don't forget it. He doesn't smile on your sin, and this doesn't mean that you can run around sinning whenever you feel like it. No. But we no longer live in fear of sin or death, but walk in the way everlasting by His grace. Live for Him, by His grace. Love Him, by His grace. And don't be afraid when you fall. You are forgiven, by His grace. It's the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of you. 



Thursday, July 3, 2014

My LAUNCH experience

It is often thought that the big moments in our history: our births, our salvation, our marriages, our children, are the moments that shape us. I would like to argue that it is, in fact, the little everyday moments that make our lives. It seems to me that it is the decisions made in the middle of humdrum life that fashion the people we are. One might say that it was my decision to join LAUNCH that made me who I am, but I would contend that it was the everyday decisions made during the program that created the framework for the way I live today.  
When I came to Hidden Acres, I had no idea who I was, what I was to do with my life, and how to relate to the real-life world that I was about to jump into as a recent High School Graduate. The whole idea was very intimidating to me.  I was moving away from my family, taking my first real job, and was the only girl in the program, to boot. I was very unsure of myself and my abilities and expected to be fired no later than 6 months in. 
That is not what happened, praise be to God, because of the patience and love that I was shown by my instructor, Brett Wiuff, the other LAUNCH students, and the rest of the Hidden Acres Staff. My experience there really did provide the "launch pad" for me to go out into the world with confidence. Yes, I learned how to split wood, work a dishroom, drive a pickup truck (which has proved invaluable) and many other practical tasks, but more importantly I learned how to be part of a team, how to respect authority, and how to be the person Christ made me to be to the fullest. At Hidden Acres, I was given the desire to pursue the Lord, to grow in my relationships with those around me, and  to serve others tirelessly.     
What is LAUNCH like, you may ask? Well, I won't tell  you it's easy, because it's not. The hours are long, the work much more than anticipated, and the atmosphere most often stressful. I won't tell you that you're sure to grow in your abilities, relationships, and spiritual life because the program is only as much as you put into it. But what I will tell you is that it is worth it. What I will tell you is that it was the best spent year of my life. What I will tell you is that if you come into it with an open heart, willing and ready to listen to the Lord and what He has to tell you, your life will never be the same. This program not only taught me how to work in most any enviromant, how be part of a team, and how to have a servant-like attitude, but how to live. Because of LAUNCH, I came to understand the depth of Christ's love for me, the plans He has for me as an individual, and the abundance of grace bestowed on us day-by-day. I built life-long relationships with the staff at Hidden Acres and my fellow students. In fact, I was married 3 weeks ago to Brian Lunn, one of the other graduates of LAUNCH 2012, believe it or not (results not typical).  
When I came to LAUNCH, I was unsure of my every move, thought, and decision. When I left, and to this day, I can walk through life with a smile on my face, purpose in my step, and my head held high because of the grace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord and the people at Hidden Acres Christian Center.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hope


Here I sit on my messed-up bed, in my messed-up room, in a messed-up mood. I say I'm in a "messed-up mood" because I am exorbitantly depressed for no reason. Here I am, getting married in 37 days to a man who loves me dearly, redeemed and treasured by a God who loves me dearly, surrounded by people who support me and love me dearly. Yet I am depressed.

It could be lack of sleep. It could be something I ate (or neglected to eat). It could be the stress of my everyday life finally getting to me. It could be that this girl thrives on hugs and, yet, rarely gets them.

I don't know. I really don't. But... I think that it's okay. Because it's okay to be messed-up. It's hard to believe, living in a world where we're expected to keep our entire lives in order. Our rooms clean, our beds made, our grades high, and always striving for something greater. But, really, where does that self-image fit into Christianity?

Don't get me wrong! I'm not asking for anarchy or suddenly turning into a liberal who takes freedom in Christ way too far. But, I am asking.... well... how is the world supposed to learn from perfect people? I know, we're not perfect. But, we sure try to convince everyone else that we are. We go on in our lives, putting forward a face of control and poise. But, that's not who we are. You, me, we're just as screwed up as the next guy. We have bad motives, have made bad decisions, have made awful mistakes. Most of us walk around feeling dissatisfied with our lives, disappointed with our lot in life, even sometimes feeling like the world is spinning out of control. I don't know about you, but I feel like I've spent my entire life asking God, "Why?" "Why did this have to happen to me?" "Did I fail you?" "Am I not allowed to be happy....even for just 6 months at a time?" "Why?... I don't understand!"

But, just like everyone else, you couldn't tell that by looking at me. Even by spending time with me. People keep telling me, "You are so motivated!" "You seem to have things under control." "I wish I could be like you." Every time, I want to tell them how I feel like I'm drowning in responsibility. How I continue to get sick over and over because I'm trying to meet all the needs of everyone around me. How I go to bed at night feeling like a complete and udder failure almost every night...and the other nights I'm too exhausted to think. How I often wish that I could go live in a cave for the rest of my life because loving people....it hurts too much to bear. I want, so much, to tell them. Do I? No. I say, "Thank you" and move forward as quickly as possible.

But, that's where the hope kicks in. Emily Dickinson once wrote, "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all." I love that saying because I get this picture in my mind of a white dove in the midst of all the darkness reminding me of what is to come. Finding hope can often be difficult. But, I have learned that Jesus didn't come to save the perfect, but those who needed help. Needed Him. He came for the messed-up. He came for me. He came for you. That it is just because I am messed-up, just because I am helpless, just because I am overwhelmed, just because I am depressed that I need Him. And all the time, I see how much more I need Him. So I cling to that old rugged cross so I can exchange it some day for that crown. I know who I believed in and am persuaded that
He is able to keep that which I've committed to Him until that day.

So, here I am, posting on the world-wide web how screwed-up I am. Yes, it's scary. But it is also so relieving because I don't have to hide. In fact, all that hiding just hindered the story of freedom I was trying to tell. Jesus loves me even my bed is a mess, my room is a disaster, and I am depressed for no reason. He takes us, just as we are. Life is not fun. Life is not fair. But, we can find hope in knowing that we have someone, someone who never fails, never leaves, never stops loving on us, someone to walk through this life with us. Someone to bring us joy.