Africa (Pt. 2): Kisses from Katie

“…even though I realize I cannot always mend or meet, I can enter in.  I can enter into someone’s pain and sit with them and know. This is Jesus. Not that He apologizes for the hard and the hurt, but that He enters in, He comes with us to the hard places. And so I continue to enter.” —Kisses from Katie, p.23

Katie Davis’ New York Times Best Seller, Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, was the first book that began to puncture and crack my preconceived notions of Uganda. So many of the powerful words that danced through the dusty red pages of her book captivated my attention–none moreso than the simple excerpt above. And while the beauty and tragedy of her story cause one page to constantly contrast the next, I found that as I read, this contrast became unavoidable. Real. Beautiful.

view

When I awoke the first morning of our journey, I was greeted by the first of many  jarring contrasts that served as a mallet to my presumptions–shattering all that I expected to find.  As I slid back the shadowing curtain and twisted open the rusted lock of my balcony door, I found myself face-to-face with a surreal paradise. Katie writes often about the vast contrast between the beauty of the land, and the ugliness of suffering for many people. Her words had painted a picture in my mind, but the sunrise splashed color and life and vibrance into my expectations.  The land of Uganda was lush, tropical, and electric. The vibrant green of the rich foliage splashed itself against a cloudless blue sky.  Tropical trees stretched towards the sun and Lake Victoria shimmered and waved in the distance. The hoots and whistles of birds spun a song of life through the twists of the breeze, and sharp red dirt roads wove themselves like thin veins across the panorama. I was breathless–overwhelmed by the raw beauty of God’s continent.

I continued to marvel and gawk at the land as we drove a few hours to the town of Jinja. The sun seemed to shine brighter on Uganda. The colors seemed to radiate more energy and joy. The now familiar scent of the land seemed to follow me, lead me, and welcome me to each new place. We bounced and bobbed down the streets, often waving down strangers for directions and finding friends in their soft eyes. There were no street signs, no traffic lights, no police wielding radar guns. There was just simplicity. And life. And the milling and stirring of activity abound. Our greatest means of asking for directions was, “We are looking for Auntie Katie.” And in a town of tens of thousands, they knew right where to point us.

AmazimaBoyWe pulled up to Amazima Ministries and parked just within the thin fence that separated the ministry grounds from a local farmers growing garden.  The expanse was easy and inviting–there was a large concrete gazebo with a straw thatched roof neighboring a few one-room buildings. Behind the buildings stretched a huge playground littered with kids.  Just as we climbed out of our vehicle, the echoes of a bell rang through the open, grassy field and kids came running from the playground and out of thick brush surrounding the area. A few children danced in from the same fence opening we had driven through, and all quickly congregated to the gazebo and lined the empty benches. It was time for “chapel”, and you could watch as the kids squirmed and rustled with excitement. They were entering in with open hearts, excited minds, and thirsty souls–they glowed with anticipation of worshipping the King they had come to know. It was time to praise Jesus.

I watched and listened in awe as these thin, dirty children raised their hands and sang and swayed. Some danced, some played, some laughed. They sang and sang and sang. And smiled. It was both enchanting and convicting to see these tiny children worship so freely. Some wore nothing but rags. Hundreds of tiny, shoeless feet dangled from the chapel benches.  Hundreds of dark, bald heads bounced and bobbed, speckled with white worms and fungus. Yet despite their circumstances, despite the unimaginable things they’ve undoubtedly seen and experienced in their short lives, despite the material things and basic necessities they’ve lacked–they praised!

I was spellbound and eager to spend time with the young woman, no older than myself, who had been so daringly obedient to God and who had built this ministry in His name.  To tell Katie’s story would take me far more space than this blog allows, so I urge you to read her book and dig into her captivating website (http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com).  At 23 years old, Katie is an adoptive mother to 13 Ugandan daughters. She has built a ministry that provides for hundreds and hundreds of children in the neighborhoods of Jinja–covering their school fee expenses, providing them with nutritious food, addressing their medical needs, and giving them a place to gather on Saturdays and praise the King who lovingly led a faithful servant to enter in to these children’s world. A very hard world. A very real world. A very beautiful world.

Amazima

And while my time spent with Katie was moving, the hours spent with the children were moments I will never forget. From worshipping and singing along with their sweet voices, to climbing through playground tunnels and playing “house” with a dozen sweet girls, I found myself in perfect peace and abundant joy. We danced and laughed. We ate rice, hot beans and chicken with our fingers. We tip-toed barefoot through the grass and spoke for hours through our eye contact, alone.  The language barrier was vast, but the translation of a smile was simple. After hours of tickling and hide-and-seek and silly animal impersonations, we sprawled out on the grass and basked in the sun together. A dozen tiny, dirty legs tangled together with mine in a sweaty pile. Sweet hands pulled and rubbed on my clothes, my face, my arms. Before I knew it I noticed what felt like fifty tiny fingers dancing through my hair.  The girls had sat me up and were busy at work braiding and twisting my “mzungu” hair. They toiled and worked and gossiped together in their native language. Every now and then they would giggle and laugh and swat away any boys who tried to join in the activity. I closed my eyes, breathed in a deep whiff of their sour, sweet smell, and praised God in that perfect moment of peace. This must surely be a taste of heaven. This must surely be a glimpse of Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.

What was unique about Amazima was the beautiful contrast that continued to echo so loudly.  The children who filled the playgrounds, danced in the chapel, and tumbled through the fields were, by America’s standards, filthy. Amazima reaches out to the children in the community with the most need. Many, if not all, come from impoverished homes, heartbreaking conditions, and jaw-dropping hardship. Yet through Amazima, some of their physical needs, and many of their spiritual needs are met. They find friendship, love, and hope. Through the selfless provision by Amazima, they find Jesus. And for these precious children, that is enough. Abundant joy and life flows through them. Smiles never escape their faces. Gladness never evades their hearts. They are so very appreciative, so very polite, and so very eager to share with you the love that has been shared with them. Radical need contrasted by simple provision. Radical hurt contrasted by simple trust. That is what defines their radical faith. Simple love.

I want to be a believer who recognizes that deeply that Jesus is ENOUGH. I want to be that grateful for every day and every blessing. I want to shine light like the Ugandan children. I found myself envying their lives. Envying the simple, unobstructed, fervent love they felt for God.  Envying how clearly God moves there. He is present, He nurtures and kneads their tiny hearts, and He comforts them. He holds them, He laughs with them, and He loves them.  As Katie so eloquently said, He enters in. And He loves fiercely.

I so deeply admire Katie for following in His example and doing the same.

(to be continued…)KatieDavis

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Clay In the Potter’s Hands: a poem of trust

I am but clay in the potter’s hands,
a mass amongst many in the workshop of life.
Formless and shapeless, no use or demands,
simple and naive, unfamiliar to strife.

To my left rest many, resembling me,
but they’re hardened and drying, crumbling in state.
Though the potter offers moisture, graciously free,
they progressively resist, hardened by hate.

To my right I see others, flexible and cool,
eager to be molded by the potter’s hands.
They are gentle in texture, a pliable tool,
for them the potter possesses great plans.

I am but clay in the potter’s hands,
of all those around, he scoops ME up.
He knows I am ready for all the demands
required to shape me into a great cup.

As he begins kneading my grooves and my dimples,
I feel the great warmth of the potter’s touch.
But soon he starts stretching me into more than what’s simple
and I’m suddenly sure he is asking too much.

I resist and I struggle, as my moisture dries,
where I once was pliable, I soon start to tear.
In distress I realize I need the grace of the potter,
for alone I am helpless, it’s too tough to bear.

I am but clay in the potter’s hands,
when he sees I am struggling he meets all my needs.
Calmly he adds moisture to my drying sands,
I am instantly refreshed, I need not to plead.

And with that he continues to mold me and shape me,
he smooths out my edges and builds me up.
Before long I can tell that his plans are much grander
than simply to mold me into a small cup.

I find myself wondering what it is he is planning
as he massages my ridges and bends my dough.
I grow anxious and ask him of what he is manning,
but he smiles and says that’s not for me to know.

I am but clay in the potter’s hands,
does clay say to the potter, what is it you make?
Worry and fear are not from which I stand,
therefore I must trust the potter’s will is at stake.

As he finishes sculpting, I know I am changed,
I can feel my new ridges and sturdy base.
But just as I find ease in what was once strange,
I see there is more ahead I must face.

Life is not easy, not even for clay,
for heat is what makes us strong.
The kiln has been burning, awaiting my day
and the licks of the flames are long.

I am but clay in the potter’s hands,
my fate is not mine to choose.
I must trust that he knows his perfect plan,
and that I have nothing to lose.

As I’m led to the fire, the potter is gentle,
he knows I can only handle so much.
He assures me the end results will be plentiful
if I trust in him and remain tough.

So I face the adversity, the heat and the pain,
knowing the flame cannot bring my end.
Though I ache and I hurt and I want to place blame,
I cling to the hope that the potter sends.

I can feel myself toughening, my sides growing stiff
as the heat of life sturdies my flanks.
And though not long before I was struggling and burning
I now find myself giving thanks.

I am but clay in the potter’s hands,
as he draws me out of the fiery baker.
He was right, I’m not broken or weakened or cracked
I’m a strong tool in the hands of my Maker.

–Mo Isom, August 2012

This original poem was inspired by this Biblical passage:

Isaiah 45:9-12

“What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.
Does a clay pot argue with its maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying,
‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’
Does the pot exclaim,
‘How clumsy can you be?’
10 How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father,
‘Why was I born?’
or if it said to its mother,
‘Why did you make me this way?’”
11 This is what the Lord says—
the Holy One of Israel and your Creator:
“Do you question what I do for my children?
Do you give me orders about the work of my hands?
12 I am the one who made the earth
and created people to live on it.
With my hands I stretched out the heavens.
All the stars are at my command.

Wrapping Up A Grace-Filled Year

 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” –Galatians 2:20

 

There is no verse more fitting to conclude my year-long intimacy fast than Galatians 2:20. The 1,000+ words I’m about to type can’t even come close to summarizing 2011 as eloquently and simply as Galatians 2:20. Perhaps I should just stop typing now…

On second thought, you all know I’m far too long-winded to do that. 🙂

Wow! WHAT A YEAR! What an intimate, challenging, powerful, humbling year! I cannot believe 2011 has already come to a close. It seems like we began our journey only a few days ago. But the year is set in stone. Another year of life in the books. A year we will never get back. Did you make the most of yours?

There are SO many different ways I could structure this final “Kissless ’till Next Christmas” post. And SO many words I could type. So many things I never had the time to share throughout the year. But, I figure the easiest way to summarize this fantastic journey is by answering some really common questions I got throughout the year, and since the year has ended. Ready for a little Q & A?

Q: Did you REALLY make it the WHOLE year without sharing even as much as a kiss?

A: I sure did. Absolutely. Without a doubt. Did it. Made it. Loved it! It was not an easy year, by any means. It did not come without great sacrifice, bouts of loneliness, apprehensions. At times it really hurt. At the beginning of the year I tried to rekindle a relationship (void of the physicality) with my then-boyfriend, but that wasn’t what God had asked for. He had asked for all of me. 100% of my heart. So I had to cut myself off from a wonderful man and move forward with my pledge to our King. Is that normal? Probably not. But was it worth it? Without a doubt. I am a woman who honors my commitments, and I made a commitment to God. There was nothing that was going to deter me from my promise. Satan tried, Satan failed. People tried, people failed. There was plenty that could have distracted me, but as time progressed, God revealed Himself in such beautiful ways. As time progressed, He cleansed my heart of temptation. He cleansed my heart of lustful desire. He cleansed my heart of negativity, apprehension, fatigue. He cleansed my heart of so many of the emotions and desires that young adults get caught up in. And when my heart was scrubbed clean, He filled it with so much Light! So much hope! So much joy! I would say that after the third month, reliance on a guy was the last thing on my mind. I was, and continue to be, so wrapped in such an intimate and filling relationship with our Lord, that words can’t even do justice for His sufficiency. His grace was enough.

Q. So you didn’t even date?

A. Nope! No dates for me. I feel like half of the people reading this, who have never met me, must have this crazy image in their head of a pale, lonely girl locked away in her apartment with a metal chastity belt strapped on like underwear. HAHA! Get real! Just because I wasn’t out hooking up, dating, or searching for a relationship, doesn’t mean that I wasn’t out living life like a normal woman! Throughout this year I continued to hang with friends and have fun. By tom-boy default, most of my closest friends are guys. I spent plenty of time with them! Heck, I was training with the football boys the entire year. There was no avoiding the smelly testosterone! But, contrary to popular belief, it IS absolutely possible for a girl to have normal, healthy friendships with guys. Those friendships are made even stronger and healthier when you take any chance at physicality completely off the table. I’m not naive. I know how a man’s mind works. I’m well aware that some of their thoughts likely weren’t as pure as mine. But I’m also a firm believer that men aren’t as one-tracked as society makes them out to be. And I have plenty of amazing male friends who would back me on that. Consider it field research. Women, if you want a man to treat you with respect, earn their respect. Don’t assume it will be given. Especially when you are the one teasing them with what you wear, how you act, and the games you play. It comes down to respecting each others’ hearts by being intentional in your actions, intentional in your interactions, and intentional with your words. No dates for me, but so many amazing friendships developed.

Q. Now that the fast is over, have you kissed anyone? Are you going crazy?

A. Probably the most frustrating, and most common, question that I’ve gotten since the end of 2011. *Deep breath* If, by now, you are STILL under the assumption that this year-long fast was simply and solely based around the physical component, you are so far off track. Biblically, fasting and prayer are emphasized as sacrifices to God. In denying ourselves of something, we are showing obedience and discipline to the Lord. We are trusting that He will provide for us, answer our prayers, and nourish us with what we lack. Psalms 35:13 so beautifully states, “I humbled my soul with fasting …” People fast in all different ways. Many will fast from food and drink, some will fast from activity, etc. I was simply moved to fast from intimacy. Not because I was some wild girl before, not because I wanted to cover up my past and let everybody know that I was new and changed. Absolutely not. Why would I have given up an entire year of my life just to prove a point to people? Get real. If those were my motives, I never would have made it. I was solely moved to make this sacrifice by God, alone. And I am so glad that I did. He has changed my heart, piece by piece, from the inside out. He has given me new perspective, new appreciation, and new drive. Those of little faith may assume that a fast only leads to great hunger. But a fast supplemented by the grace of Jesus Christ, leads to wisdom, refinement, perspective, and faith. His grace is so sufficient. I never hungered and never thirsted for intimacy. His love was too abundant. I stand now with arms high and heart abandoned, chained only to the love of Jesus Christ. I have not kissed a boy since my fast ended. And I am planning on saving my next kiss for a man I feel God has very purposely placed in my life, and perhaps has designed for me to marry. I don’t know that man yet, but I know he will come along on God’s timing. And I am more than willing to wait…

Q: Do you feel like you missed out on anything this year?

A: Not at all. And I say that in all honesty. The Lord assures us that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. He assures us that if we honor Him with our time, our talents, our hearts, He will honor us with blessings, adornment, and comfort. That Man comes through on his Word! Ha! This has been the most unbelievable, fulfilling, overwhelming year of my life! I have lacked in nothing spiritually or emotionally or physically. He has flooded my heart with humbling grace and perfect love. He is all I need. Anything after Him is just icing on the cake. Blessings that I look forward to receiving and then distributing for His Glory and His name! Maybe I sound crazy to some, but I am being absolutely honest. And absolutely transparent. I can promise you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if you give a piece of yourself to the Lord, as much as you can muster, He will complete you. He will free you from the bondage of this temporary life, and reveal to you what Life in Him looks and feels like. Man, it’s amazing. And it only gets better. No matter your circumstance, your history, your background, your present…HE has a future for you! And it’s beyond your wildest dream.

Q: What did you learn through all of this?

I was so naive to think that when I began the fast, I knew exactly what God was going to do in my heart and to teach me. I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I knew what He had in store. Man, was I wrong! If I tried to list everything the Lord has revealed to me this year, I would run out of blog space! He taught me what it means to seek His face. What it means to be a Godly woman, and what that looks like. What a Godly man looks like. What it means to truly be in a Christ-centered relationship. He taught me trust, compassion, love. True love, and what that entails. He taught me dependence, unbridled faith, unashamed Life in Him. He revealed to me boldness, courage, and heart. He revealed to me what it looks like for my will to align with His. He taught me the joys of the fruits of labor done in His name. He taught me how to read the Word with clarity. He taught me how to boldly pray. How to constantly pray. How to fearlessly pray. He taught me how to love others based on the foundation of my love for Him. He taught me that He will teach me my whole life. That I will never have it fully figured out, but that it all is based in the root of love. God’s love for us, God’s love for His Son. His Son’s love for us, our love for Him. He taught me more than I can teach. He taught me Truth.

Q: What’s next?

Now that the year is over, a new year begins. And a new journey begins! It is time to live life unashamed. It is time to live life for His glory! As I take on the uncertainty and excitement of this new year, I hope you all will join me! Join me in following the steps I take in my walk with the Lord. Join me in redefining our lives based NOT around the odds and chances of the world, but based solely around God’s Odds. Devalue the doubt and live boldly!

The odds are in your favor! Do you believe?

Christmas Alphabet

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” –Matthew 1:23

A Amazing absolution! A
B beloved baby’s birth.
C Christ carefully created,
D delivered despite dearth.
E Emmanuel! Emmanuel! Ever
F faithful, freeing Father.
G God’s greatest gift graced
H heathen hands, healing
I immoral idolaters.
J Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Justly
K kindhearted King.
L Limitless lover, life-giving leader,
M merciful Majesty!
N Nazarene, new Nazarene,
O our omnipotent offering.
P Prophecies’ pure proof, passionate Prince of Peace!
Q Quietly, quite quietly,
R rains righteous Redeemer’s reign.
S Simple Son saves sinners’ souls
T through trust, Truth truly trains.
U Unimaginable, uncontainable, unfailing
V vested voice,
W willingly walked with a wounded world
X x-tending x-cited choice. 🙂
Y Yahweh! Yahweh! Yahweh!
Z Zest the Christmas zeal!

And know your Christmas alphabet
so you will know God’s love is real!

Merry Christmas!

Somewhere Beautiful

I know I have been on a bit of a song-kick lately, but I have been stumbling across some great music that deserves a listen! I don’t know about you, but I am the type of person who can hear any song and relate it to Christ. (Well, maybe not ANY song…”Baby Got Back” just doesn’t quite translate into a good worship tune.) Nevertheless, I love to flip songs in order to praise our King! Good example: listen to “Run To You” by Lady Antebellum. Every time they say the word “baby”, replace it with “Jesus”. So awesome.

Anyways, while there are some songs that you have to really work to adjust, others are just naturally poetic ballads to our King.  I grew up in school with the McConnell siblings. While they were all in different grades than myself, their family’s talents were well-known. Prime example: Sean McConnell, the vocalist on this song. I would encourage you to look up his music. He is an amazing artist and has a fantastic heart for Christ.

I have always loved this song. It is an example of a great acoustic song that can appeal commercially, but also has a more subtle, grace-filled message. Take a listen…

Somewhere Beautiful

written by: Wade Bowen, vocals by: Sean McConnell

Looking down at the strip from my hotel room,
It must be a full moon, cause their all out tonight
All the insecure boys in their muscle cars,
Young girls in their push-up bras under neon lights,
They come here for freedom, freedom from anything
And for miles and miles down this road, you can hear them sing
With their voices, and their engines, and their pounding radios
It seems like round here, no one knows

No one knows that there’s more
Beyond these dead skies and these filthy streets
Take my hand and let me pull you
Out of the blindness of your weary soul
To somewhere beautiful
To somewhere beautiful

Is there any way to learn from what you’ve been told
Or do you really have to hold the experience
Cause you can hear me now, and come out clean
Trust me, I could spare you the consequence
I can tell by your eyes, that there ain’t no getting through
Cause you’re hell bent on doing exactly what you’ve gotta do
So welcome to a long line of sinners and saints
Is there anyone around here who ain’t

Don’t you know that there’s more
Beyond these dead skies and these filthy streets
Take my hand, and let me pull you
Out of the blindness of your weary soul
To somewhere beautiful
To somewhere beautiful

Don’t you know that there’s more
Beyond these dead skies and all these filthy streets
So take my hand, let me pull you
Out of the blindness of your weary soul
To somewhere beautiful
To somewhere beautiful
Yeah, to somewhere beautiful…

Under Attack

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Satan is clever.  He is sly, and smooth, and cynical.  Satan is patient. He waits calm, and quiet, and still.  Satan is smart. He is crafty, and tricky, and subtle.  It’s almost been a full month since I have posted last.  Can you believe that?–a month. When I began this blog, I was posting every single day.  Heck, I was so eager to write and to share, I was writing 3 to 4 posts a day, and saving them so that they could slowly filter out.  I was on fire! Passionate, burning, uncontrollable.  Obsessed.

Have you been there? Riding strong on a spiritual high? Invincible in His grace.  Unashamed and impossible to silence? Thirsty for the Word and nourished by devotion.  Obsessed? God fills your thoughts, He fills your time, He fills your mind.  Every decision you make is decidedly executed with Christ in mind.  Every word spoken is delicately selected and the words pour from you with energy and passion and joy.  There is a light-heartedess in your spirit.  There is a curiosity and a desire and an eagerness to learn and to share.  You scoff at your old ways, baffled by how you could have ever been tempted by that which was earthly–how you could have ever been so naive.  Committed to living for Christ–committed to maintaining this sprinter’s pace and committed to being the absolute best example you can be for your friends, your family, your co-workers.  Committed to being different.

Then 6 months pass and you find yourself in an uncommon moment.  A moment of free time in your crazy schedule–a moment of quiet time that you typically would have filled up with another check off the “to-do” list.  But in that moment you take the offered breather and you think…life is still on course.  It is comfortable, steady, placid.  You flip through the elements of your “world”. Work…school…family…finances…schedules…vacations…boyfriends, girlfriends…sports……………faith. Hmm, faith. Well you went to church a few Sundays ago. You prayed a few times when your best friend’s mom was sick. You tossed a few coins in that homeless man’s cup.  You wrapped up all of your emails with a “God Bless!” Oh, and you posted a few Bible verses on facebook and Twitter.  You let your mind wander, you feel that guilt start to boil up, you list off mental excuses and exceptions. Then you rationalize that you will read your Bible more often. You’ll go to church this Sunday.  You’ll start praying every night again.

Have you been there? Be honest. Are you there right now?

I am.

I’m ashamed. Ashamed because I know Satan is smiling.  In a swift six months he has done it again.  He has slowly and steadily weaseled his way between myself and my King.  I know what you’re probably thinking–“Oh my gosh, she’s about to tell us that she cracked.  She had to have broken her ‘Kissless ‘Till Next Christmas vow. She didn’t make it! She…”  Take a deep breath. All is well. I am still going strong on the intimacy fast. In fact, stronger than strong! Yes, the first few months were tough, but we serve a fantastic King. And He lifted that temptation and pressure with ease. So no, I haven’t struggled with the intimacy element of the fast, but I have allowed Satan to sit down at the table and deal his hand of cards.

Just so you know, I’m choosing to share this next portion with you, because I want you to see just how human I am.  Ever since I began this journey, I’ve received so many messages and comments challenging my position. I think people, especially young people my age, have been so confused as to why I would ever start an intimacy fast.–For God? Are you crazy? You’re a senior in college. What are you trying to prove? Who do you think you’re better than? Oh man, you must just be the perfect Christian.  You’ve got that whole God thing figured out, huh? Guess you’re ‘Holier than Thou’. Bible-thumper. Jesus Freak. Blah…blah…blah…–You name it, I’ve heard it.  And while it breaks my heart that people are so apt to put up walls so quickly, I hope some people can come to understand that I’m just as human as everyone else.  My walk is filled with just as many ups and downs. My relationship with Christ is filled with just as much confusion, and inconsistency, and challenges.

Case in point: the place I’m at right this moment.  The other day an executive producer from Fox flew in to spend the day filming me so that they could show my story on an episode of “The Real Winning Edge”, a nationally-syndicated, Christian-based television program that runs on their network. Holy cow.  That is a big deal for a number of reasons: #1. It was overwhelmingly humbling that they wanted to tell my story.  I’m still so incredibly honored to have even been a part of their production. #2. A CHRISTIAN-BASED television program on a major network like FOX? That’s rare. So rare. And so special. #3. This was a project with a great deal of money invested into it, and it was all for the glory of God. All three of those things still boggle my mind.  And the reason I explain it all is so that you can appreciate how rare, how special, and how divine this whole production truly was. A once-in-a-lifetime type opportunity.  How could anyone be anything but overjoyed to be a part of something like that?

I wasn’t.  I woke up that morning irritable, cranky, hateful, and shrewd.  My precious mom had flown all the way in from Georgia to help me throughout the day, and from the moment I woke up I was nothing but short with her.  We had a production schedule that was so jam-packed there was hardly a moment to breath, and this was a day that needed to go off without a hitch.  I was bloated, I was stuffed-up, I was hot, my skin was breaking out in rashes, I was miserable.  Throughout that morning, I was able to put on a smile for the producer and crew, but anytime I got behind a closed door or alone with my mom, I turned into a monster.  Everything was going wrong, we were off-schedule from the start, and I was as cruel as cruel comes. I couldn’t wrap my head around why I felt so terrible. I couldn’t wrap my head around why I was so hostile and irritable, and filled with empty tears.  The best way I can describe it is to say that I felt like I was about to explode.  I was at a breaking point….

Right before lunch, my mom sat me down on an empty couch we found while we were waiting for the crew to gather their equipment.  Without saying much, she simply took my hands and began to pray.  My mom must have prayed over me for 4 or 5 minutes, but time seemed to pause.  As I heard her intently and diligently praying words of simple beauty and earnest request, I found myself in that “moment” I mentioned at the beginning of this post–a moment of stillness and peace that I hadn’t experienced in far too long. When had my passion softened? Where had my enthusiasm and spirit and energy been hidden? Was it beneath my heavy summer school load? Had I overshadowed my eager faith with the complications of my crazy schedule? When was it that I allowed my time to be filled in front of the TV at night, rather than in the Word?

I realized that Satan had been sneaky.  He had been slow and subtle and sly, as he usual tends to be.  As the months had passed since the beginning of the year, Satan had been patient.  He had slowly and purposefully distracted me, simple moments at a time, from growth in my faith.  It started with missing my quiet time in the Word, one night, because I was simply a little too tired.  Next, it was putting off posting on my blog, because I had a school assignment I had procrastinated on.  Then, missing church, too exhausted from workouts throughout the week to pass up sleeping in just one day.  Little things became often things. Often things became regular things. Regular things became forgotten things. And six months later I found myself weak enough to be vulnerable to attack.

Have we not all experienced it? Mountain-top spiritual moments, followed by gradual valleys in our faith.  Too busy, too tired, too tempted. I found myself weakened to a dangerous point on that special day, a day I typically would have rejoiced in, made the most of, and celebrated for Christ.  On that special day–a day dedicated to the glory of God–a day specifically devoted to sharing the gospel and sharing how our magnificent King has moved in my life–a day perfectly constructed to inspire and teach and love–Satan attacked.  I was overwhelmed by a spiritual warfare and under absolute attack. You see, Satan knows how to hit us the hardest.  He knows where we hurt the most.  For me, when he bullies me, he doesn’t aim to affect anything around me–he goes straight for my body.  He attacks my health first.  My body  has always manifested grief and stress physically.  I get sick, I get hives, I run fever. I battle nausea, my skin blisters, my stomach nots.  He loves to toy with my body, he always has.  And he knows how ill I truly become. Then, he attacks my emotions–capitalizing on my resting depression, capitalizing on my quick irritability and my trauma-proned anxiety. He wraps me up in my own head, distracts me with myself, and laughs as I weaken.

You see, that’s how Satan works.  He slides in, inch by inch, when we allow our lives to run us. He waits, patiently, gradually distracting us. He takes small opportunities, wins small battles in our spirits, and then when he deems fit, overwhelms us and wins us back.  He makes us feel like we’ve fallen too far. He makes us feel like if we go crawling back now, asking for forgiveness, God would surely judge us.  Others would surely judge us.  We’d slipped up yet again, surely we’re out of chances.

WRONG! So wrong. So fantastically wrong.  Don’t let yourself believe Satan’s lies.  Don’t let yourself get tangled up in guilt! As my mom prayed over me, I literally felt a cloak of anxiety, depression, fatigue, heat, weight…lift completely off of my back.  And where the nasty cloak lifted, a cool and reviving stream tickled up my spine.  An assuring, comforting, loving GRACE blanketed me in peace.  With the freedom from that cloak, a fresh page was turned.  I was breathed new life, literally relieved from attack.  Do you understand? God never tires of turning that fresh page for you.  Guilt, depression, anxiety, hatred…these are all things of Satan. These are all things that God yearns to relieve us from! Jesus Christ died on the cross for our souls so that God can turn a new page every single time we come to Him. The rest of that day I was alleviated from my angst. Rejuvenated, positive, and able to rejoice in the purpose of the moment.  My mom’s tiny hands and heart-felt prayers packed more punch than Satan could ever handle. How? Because she called on the Holy Spirit.  She prayed to a God that makes Satan look like a chump.  She prayed to a God who assures us that no task is too big or too small for Him to overcome.  She prayed to a God who yearns to hear our prayers and to work through us.  Through those simple, sweet hands, she silenced Satan and freed me from an attack that had been in the works for months.

You guys, I stumble. I stumble and fall and stumble again.  I let Satan get in the way. I let my schedule get in the way. I’m dismissive to conviction and I ignore God, daily. But, you guys, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Runners in marathons need fuel–FUEL YOUR HEARTS WITH SERVICE FOR OTHERS. Runners need water–HYDRATE YOUR SPIRIT WITH CONSTANT PRAYER.  Runners need rest–REST IN THE WORD OF GOD! Serve. Pray. Read. I often have to remind myself, that I am literally filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is literally living in me. What’s impossible? Nothing.  What can’t be overcome? Nothing. Satan is good at waging war. He will be patient and take small battles. The only thing preventing us from freeing ourselves from his grip is OURSELVES. Set aside time, set aside pride, set aside self.

Be revitalized! God is ready to turn your page and reignite your passion, too.

Be still. Know that He is God. Know that HE has overcome the world…

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

“Fight the good fight of faith…” 1 Timothy 6:12

What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 5)

Wow…that may have been the longest span yet that I have gone without posting. I am deeply sorry. I FINALLY have internet set up at my new place, but these past few weeks have been a whirl-wind. Now that I am settled in, you can expect more posts to start flooding in. I want to get back on a daily schedule of writing, and I have no excuse not to. I have missed you all! So let’s pick up where we left off. If you are just joining, it might help to read part 1, 2, 3, and 4 of this series before reading this portion. A continuation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7…detailing what it looks like to be a Godly man.)

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to but one wife, temperate…

self-controlled…

Self-control.  In the past, every time I read through this verse, I subconsciously lumped together the neighboring terms, “temperate” and “self-controlled”. Afterall, from the surface definitions I knew of them, they were virtually the same term, and applied to the same principles.  However, as I’ve grown in my walk, I’ve learned more about the magnitude of the written Word.  The Bible does not repeat itself unnecessarily.  Its pages aren’t filled with synonyms in order to add density and depth.  Each word has been recorded with purpose and magnitude. My greatest growth in the Word has occurred when I have taken the time to break down verses piece-by-piece, and truly learn the complexity of the image that the words are painting. Each and every word can take on countless forms–that is the beauty in the living, breathing Word of God.

So, then, what does self-control mean with respect to how a Godly man is called to properly lead?  I think the first words that typically flood our minds when we hear that term are: restraint, discipline, and words synonymous with reigning ourselves in and holding back.  While there is some truth in those definitions, self-control is a much broader topic of character. When I think of self-control, the first word that comes to my mind is maturity. Think about it–from the moment we are born we are constantly, consciously and subconsciously, learning traits of self-control.  For example, we start in diapers, progress to pull-ups, and eventually underwear–that is learned self-control of our bodily functions. We begin life unable to hold our own heads up, eventually learn hand-eye coordination, and work to the point of exercise, training, and complete cognitive awareness of our bodies at all times–that is learned bodily control.  We begin life with emotional outbursts, progress to becoming aware of our feelings and triggers, and eventually grow to the point of being able to monitor, communicate, and alter our emotions–that is learned emotional control.  We begin making incoherent sounds, progress to learning written and spoken words and structures, and eventually progress to being capable of writing novels, speaking to groups, and communicating effectively–that is learned language control.

If you look at these four examples, there are similarities amongst all of them.  Primarily, there is a clear coddling period at the beginning of each cycle.  There is a time where we are fully reliant on the care of others.  We are unable to care for ourselves and constantly require the nurturing of another.  Secondarily, there is a phase where we are learning large sums of information and making significant strides in development.  This phase, too, is impacted by others.  We are taught by example, experience, and interaction.  The information is engrained in us by those who are further in their journey and more self-controlled.  And in the final phase of each cycle, there is refinement and progress still being made, but we are largely self-controlled, aware, and matured.  There is that word again–mature.  As we mature, in life, we gain discernment, judgement, discipline, and wisdom. So often the term “self-control” carries a negatively slanted connotation.  As if self-control specifically and independently applies to the ability to reign oneself back or inhibit oneself from doing something.  But in actuality, that term applies to a well-rounded definition of maturity, development, and awareness.  So how does this relate to being a Godly man? Here goes…

As believers, we begin our journey in raw form.  I don’t care if you have been attending church your whole life, or if you had never heard the Word of God and experienced a miraculous “coming to Jesus” moment that changed your life radically.  The moment that it “clicks”…the moment we are saved…the moment we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts…the moment we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are in raw form.  You see, there is nothing more powerful than the Holy Spirit, and there is nothing more powerful and capable than our King, but we, as humans, are weak. It goes back to the “Position .V. Condition in Christ” study that we did.  We are filled, but we still wear a heavy, fleshy coat that weighs us down with things of this world.  And when we are saved, we are born again; with rebirth–we are raw.  In that time, we are completely and whole-heartedly, dependent on the grace of God alone.  We are incapable of understanding even a hint of the magnitude of His power, and we are raw forms in His hands.  But He is the most fantastic nurturer.  He gives, abundantly–forgives, unceasingly–and loves, unconditionally.

As we grow in our walks, we begin to understand the tiniest hints of His grace with both our heads and our hearts.  We begin to study the Bible, learn of His Word, and change the way we live our lives.  In this time, we begin to make fantastic strides and progressions in our journey as believers.  We begin to speak with clarity and knowledge and we learn how to communicate the hope that we have with others.  We experience fellowship with other believers, we experience and witness the power of prayer, and we become increasingly aware of His presence around us and in this world.  We gain a sense of humility, discernment, conviction, and thankfulness.  This is such a fantastic period in our walks, because our eyes are truly opened, our hearts are powerfully changed, and we begin to learn that light we feel inside is starting to be noticed by others.

Then, as we progress and grow and strive for sanctification, we develop true spiritual maturity.  Now, don’t be mistaken, our walks with Christ are ever-growing, ever-humbling, and ever-changing.  It is not as if we reach a point where we finally “get it” all and have no progress left to make. HA! That would be an impossibility.  However, as we strive towards sanctification as Godly men and Godly women, we begin to notice true maturity in our walks.  This is often defined by unshakable conviction, startling humility, and pure, organic hope and joy in the Holy Spirit. Through adversity, through successes, through everything–there is an unshakable comfort.  Spiritual maturity is often marked by an abundant and faithful prayer life. An absolute faith. An overwhelming desire to continue to learn and grow.  We evolve into disciples.  Disciples who strive to live by the Word of God in its most literal form. Disciples who love, unconditionally, and teach, effortlessly, through their actions, their faith, and their purity.

Is there a time frame to this progression? Is there a specific age where we hit these points? Are there clear, discerning characteristics? Absolutely not.  No, no, and no.  Many would argue, in fact, that as we learn more and age, we lose a sense of childlike faith.  Faith untouched by the ways of this world. Faith unbridled by social norms.  But there is a great difference between literal knowledge and understanding, and true peace in our hearts and the understanding that we will never understand it all, but we strive to know and love Him more. In fact, 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.” Spiritual maturity is not defined by age, it is defined by faith.

Self-control, in the sense of being a Godly man and a Godly leader, is defined by spiritual maturity.  Not simply by the ability to restrain oneself, but by the ability to control what you can control, and rest faith in all that you cannot.  The ability to lead others towards an unfaltering faith.  The ability to teach others and disciple in a way that is effective and hospitable.  The ability to show others the light of Christ through your actions, your words, your temperament, your decisions, and your values.  The ability to exercise humility, silence self-pride, and live simply.  The ability to exercise integrity and to step outside of you and live for God–whether you are comfortable in doing so or not.  The ability to live for Him, and be prepared to be steered the direction He leads you.  The ability to lead others with you, if need be.  Self-control truly means the exact opposite of what it says–because, in a Biblical sense, self-control is death to self and unshakable life in Him.

(to be continued…)

In the Aftermath of Easter…

I’ll warn you from word one: today’s post is a cry of my heart. I’m sitting and letting my fingers do the talking. If you care for what my heart cries out for our King, read on. But if you are comfortable putting God in a “box” and have no desire to step out of your comfort zone, then these words are too beautiful to fall on deaf ears, and you might as well click away from this page now…

I apologize for not posting yesterday, on such a beautiful Easter Sunday.  I would have loved to have taught on the meaning of that day. That one day–the most beautiful and passionate and celebratory day in our eternity. The day that changed everything–the day we were freed.  I had no access to a computer or to the internet. I would love for that to have been my excuse for not writing, but to be completely honest, I’m not sure I could have typed a word, anyways.  You see, when I was not rejoicing, I was in tears. When I was not celebrating, I was on my face on the floor. Though the festivities of the day carried on like everyone else’s Easter Sunday, my heart was in a different realm. I’m not sure I have ever had such an emotional reaction to such a simple day…but this year, Easter held new meaning to my soul. And as fulfilling and joyful and overwhelming as that emotion was, my tears were exacerbated by the state of the world around us.

You see, this past week was a week of growth. A week drowned in the Word. Reading, studying, reading, praying.  Every time I opened my Bible, I learned more about the grace of our King and the heart of our Savior than I have ever known before.  Understand, it’s not like I intended to spend my Spring Break with my face pressed between the pages of my Bible, but my spirit sparked a thirst. If any person on this Earth ever tries to tell you there isn’t power in the Word, they are lying and they are cowards.  If you discount the words that drown the pages of the Bible, you are foolish.  Because there are words between the covers of that book that have the power to stir your heart and change your life and convict you to the fibers of your being. LET THEM.

When I woke up Easter morning, I felt the heat of emotion stirring in my chest more violently than it has since the day my dad died. A heat that pressed its way up into my throat and inspired a violently joyous cry. A humbled, broken, gracious cry that boiled in my heart. I laid in bed and tried to pray–but how do you adequately thank a God that is SO REAL? How do you thank a King that DIED for OUR SOULS?! What words do you construct to thank a God that DID IT! That made the ultimate sacrifice and fulfilled His Word? Who rose from the dead and redeemed our hearts and showed his face and showed the scars on his hands and smiled upon us and LIVED?! How do you sculpt a prayer that is adequate and encompassing and passionate and ENOUGH?! I couldn’t. The greatest I could do was cry out. To vomit the passion that was leaking from my heart in the form of joyous praise.

HE LIVES! HE LIVES! CHRIST JESUS LIVES TODAY! HE IS RISEN!

Don’t read those words with a settled heart. That HAS to stir something inside of you! That HAS to warrant a response! That HAS to ignite a fire in you so passionate and real and hot that you cry out! Do you understand the magnitude of that grace?! YOU DON’T DESERVE IT! I DON’T DESERVE IT! NONE OF US DESERVE IT! But that’s just it. That is the point. That is the GRACE! We are sinners and we are gross and we are prideful and we are arrogant and we are materialistic and we are selfish and we are everything He taught us NOT to be, but He still loves us enough to offer us salvation. What? What?! I can’t even wrap my head around that. He STILL died for us. He died for the men who were murdering Him. He died for them because He loved them. And He loves us. He loves you.

If anyone in this world has ever made you question your worth or your value, they know nothing. If anyone on this earth has tried to tell you that you aren’t worth it, or you aren’t good enough, or you aren’t valuable enough, they are fools. If YOU have ever tried to define someone’s worth by the standards of this world, YOU are a fool. Because to JESUS CHRIST, you are worth HIS LIFE. YOU. In all your flaw, in all your sin…you are worth EVERYTHING. There is nothing you can do in this lifetime to prove your worth to Him. There is nothing you can do in this lifetime to affect the love He has for you. Because IT IS DONE. He did it. He knows it. Your worth hung on a cross and rose from a tomb when everything in the world said it couldn’t. Your worth is miraculous. Your worth is limitless. Because your worth is in Christ. Whether you know Him yet, or not. He knows you. He already died for you.

A man willingly endured unbearable torture and was crucified for you. Can you say that about anyone else in your life? Can you name another human being that has lived without flaw and has died for your heart and has risen from the dead to prove to you God’s love? I can’t. I can’t say it about my mom. I can’t say it about my dad. I can’t say it about any human being on this earth. Because NO human being compares to our King. So tell me, WHY DO WE PUT THIS KING IN A BOX?! Why is it that when the Saints win the Super Bowl, this city erupts in celebration and brags about it for a year?! But when a child tries to pray in school, we have legislation passed to silence him? Why is it that when everything is going great in life, we are so quick to tweet a ‘God is so good!’? But when adversity is thrown our way, we are suddenly lost and confused and want to question His power and spew hate to others? Why is it that when Easter rolls around everyone’s facebook status is so quick to proclaim a shallow faith and the other 364 days out of the year, we forget what He did for us? WHY IS THIS CULTURE SO COMFORTABLE MAKING GOD “FIT” WHERE WE WANT HIM TO?

Newsflash guys: it doesn’t work like that. I couldn’t stop crying yesterday because, yes, I was in awe of His grace. But another reason I was brought to tears is because of how utterly empty our love for Him is in return. I’m guilty of it, too. And I’m disgusted with myself.  Look around—we want to idolize celebrities and celebrate sin and base our worth on our wallets and base our value on what the media tells us we should be and strive, strive, strive to have more, more, more, and nothing is ever enough. HELLO–wake up! HE IS ENOUGH! End of story. “The American Dream” is a load of crap. Yeah, I said it. What this society prizes is a load of crap. Because what this society tells us is that we aren’t adequate enough. And that there is always MORE. And that we don’t have enough. And that we are defined by our roles–that we are defined by our jobs and our social status and bank accounts and our beauty. WRONG. SO very wrong. Don’t you get what He did for us? We are defined by HIM.

How can we look ourselves in the mirror after what He did for us, and still “box” Him into an hour and a half on Sunday? We “box” Him into holidays–Easter, Christmas, etc. We “box” Him into tweets and facebook statuses when we want all our friends to know we achieved something great. We “box” Him into jewelry and fashion and design when it’s all the rage to wear crosses. We “box” Him in everywhere He is convenient for us. We are foolish. Every one of us.

I want to see 50,000,000 hits on a YouTube video worshiping Christ–not one worshiping Lady GaGa. I want to see people tweeting #humility and #grace and #worship and #Christ–not #winning. I want to see people sacrificing their time and their money and their efforts to the poorest and the hungry–not to cosmetic surgery and newer cars and bigger houses. WE NEED TO GET OVER OURSELVES. AND START LIVING RADICALLY FOR OUR KING!! He doesn’t fit in your “box”. He never will. He is infinite and we have no right to question Him. No right to “box” Him. No right to stifle Him.

We are NOTHING compared to Him, yet we are EVERYTHING to Him. Think about it…

What Is Salvation? (part 2–man and man)

Wow! I have to start this blog post off with an apology. It seems like it has been forever since I have posted. Between soccer workouts and practice, school, studying for midterms, sports reporting for WAFB, preparing to move, bible studies, church, motivational speaking engagements, community service, and everything else that comes along with busy, everyday life, time has slipped by so quickly! So I am so sorry it’s been over a week…but let’s continue to dig into this awesome lesson. This part coming up is the BEST! J-E-S-U-S is about to light the place up! 🙂

Alright, so in the last post we talked about the original sin.  The very first sin that the very first man ever committed. Adam. And because of Adam’s sin, sin was born in man. Humans became sinful creatures.  Every person born after that was born into sin and confined to a sinful human nature.  Because of that one man’s sin, the one man was can all be traced back to, we are all impure and unrighteous.  No way around it.

We then went on to talk about the rules God laid out for humans after that.  The Old Testament of the Bible lays out all of these rules.  They are extensive, difficult, and overwhelming.  But God told the people who if they wanted a chance in heaven, they had to abide by these rules.  Long story short, nobody could do it. Every single person failed.  Because, as humans, we are sinful creatures, it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to live a perfect life.  We all sin. And back then, they all sinned.  As hard as they tried, they couldn’t follow all of the rules. So God fulfilled a promise that the earliest prophets had expressed in the Old Testament. He blessed us with a Messiah–a Savior. Here comes Jesus…

God recognized that it was impossible for any human being to live by the rules of the Old Testament.  But He loves us, unconditionally. We are His creation.  He grants us free will to choose, but He doesn’t want to see us all damned. He yearns to spend eternity with us.  He yearns for us to come home to Him.  So, He did the most amazing thing ever.  He sent His Son, a human being, to Earth. Jesus Christ. Why? So that we could be shown forgiveness, taught, and saved. So that we could have an outlet to heaven and stand a chance of spending eternity with Him. Stick with me here and open your mind to understand this concept. Romans 5:12-19 explains exactly why a HUMAN BEING had to be born to teach us…

It says, “For just as through the DISOBEDIENCE of one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the OBEDIENCE of one man (Jesus) the many will be made righteous.”

BOOM! What a simple and awesome explanation.  Do you understand? Adam was a HUMAN BEING that made a conscious choice to sin and to bring sin into the world.  Because of that sin, Adam opened the door to Hell. He put all of us at risk.  BUT, in order to negate Adam’s sin, God sent Jesus Christ, another HUMAN BEING to make a conscious choice to live perfectly and purely. And in doing so, He brought salvation into the world. Jesus opened the door to heaven. He showed us God’s grace.  Since a human brought sin into the world, a human had to bring salvation into the world.  That’s the only way we, as people, could be saved. Sure, God could have made it way easier.  If He wanted, He could have started the world all over.  He could have destroyed sin before it even existed. He could have cut us some slack and let us all into heaven anyways. God can literally do ANYTHING.  But He wanted to grant us freedom.  He wanted to give us the right to choose.  He wanted us to have the option and to be drawn closer to His truth by recognizing both sides of things.  He wanted us to have FAITH. Ah, so awesome.

So we see that Jesus Christ was the only way. Since sin was brought into the world by a man, God’s grace had to be shown to the world by a man. That was the only way we would be able to understand it all, and to be saved. We had to be taught by another human being. Wow. Okay, so what’s the big deal with Jesus? What did this man actually do? How did His actions grant us “salvation?”

(I promise I will post again ASAP!…This is the best part, so check back in soon!)

What is Righteousness? (part 2)

So how is it, then, that we can be 100% righteous in our POSITION, but must constantly strive towards righteousness in our CONDITION?  We understand that the Bible is our “How To” guide on EXACTLY what a righteous life looks like, but how can we be both ‘all’ and ‘nothing’ at the same time?

Let’s first understand the righteousness of our POSITION in Christ.  As you saw on the graph, when we open our hearts to the understanding of God’s love and accept Jesus Christ, we are saved. And IMMEDIATELY, our righteousness shoots up to 100% and remains there until we die.  This is because, when we truly believe in the Son of God and believe in the opportunity of salvation, we are FILLED with the Holy Spirit! We spoke about this before–we are emptied of ourselves and we are filled with the Spirit! We are saved and our souls are sealed and protected from that point on. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Wow…WOW. So when this occurs, when we make the conscious choice to believe, we are 100% righteous in God’s eyes. How? Because He no longer sees us. He sees His Son in us. And His Son, Jesus Christ, is completely righteous.  So, in God’s eyes, our souls are 100% righteous and we are instantaneously forgiven. Forgiven for everything…forgiven for our past, forgiven for our present, forgiven for our sins to come.  THAT is the power of Jesus Christ and what His life did for us.  It offers every single person on this earth LIMITLESS forgiveness and grace, if they simply believe.  It offers us a seat next to the CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE for all of eternity.  All it takes is one simple choice on our parts–a simple recognition that our life is far greater than ourselves.  A simple recognition that we are nothing without Him. A simple recognition that His sacrifice was not in vain, but was for the protection and freedom of our souls. With that simple recognition, we are saved. We are made anew and our lives here on earth can’t help but forever be changed.

Now we understand that our POSITION in Christ is unshakable.  We are 100% righteous, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we are saved. Every single one of us who chooses to believe. Why then, does the righteousness of our CONDITION seem so volatile and inconsistent?

The answer to that lies in a topic we discussed before–our flesh. We are human. Every single one of us. And, since we are human, we are stuck in a form that is sinful. On top of THAT, we live in a world that is a whirlpool of sin! So we are stuck in a body that loves to sin, living in a world that sin thrives. Crap. We are 0 for 2 right off the bat. (Which should make you even MORE grateful that His forgiveness is offered so unconditionally, because without Him and His grace, we would be screwed from the get-go.) It is literally impossible to live an entire life free of sin.  Jesus Christ was the only man who ever has and ever will be capable of that.  Should that deter us from trying? Absolutely not.  And if you are truly filled with the Holy Spirit, the thought of just throwing in the towel and saying “Oh well, I’m saved anyways. No point in trying to fight these urges to sin…” shouldn’t even cross your mind.  Because, as believers, we must recognize the importance of our role on this earth.

We must live our lives, every minute of every day, working to thin that sinful flesh and grow in our level of righteousness.  We must strive, constantly, to live more and more like Christ. Will we mess up? Yes. Will we be discouraged? Constantly. Will we be criticized and judged and put down? Every single day. Should we allow that to affect us? NO WAY! 🙂 You see, this line of righteousness is so inconsistent because we, as humans, are inconsistent. And we are surrounded by temptation, lust, desire, greed, sin, and everything earthly, impure, and temporary. And, unfortunately, we are surrounded by people who buy into all of that and can’t grasp the concept that it’s all empty.  But should we allow those people, who act in ignorance and unbelief, to affect us?…Or should we take the opportunity to share God’s love and grace and affect THEM? (I choose plan B!)

Lives can be changed and people can be saved if we, as believers, can be brave enough and bold enough in our faith to constantly strive towards righteousness in our condition and let God’s light shine on others. We, as humans, are the primary vessels for God’s light to other humans.  That is the importance of our level of righteousness in our condition.  If we can strive to live more like Christ, then Christ’s light will be able to reflect through us.  Through our actions, through our words, through our relationships, through everything.  And we won’t even always be aware of it! We can affect more people than we will ever know if we simply look in a mirror and work on ourselves.  If we simply open the Bible, understand the words, and work really hard to apply them.

IT’S NOT OUR JOB TO IMPRESS GOD. He already views us as 100% righteous. He recognizes we will mess up. He recognizes we will sin.  He recognizes we can’t do it perfectly. But our seat in heaven is assured.  We don’t have to “prove” anything to Him. It is impossible to “gain favor” with God.  We are already saved and assured salvation when we accept His Son.  IT IS OUR JOB TO BE GRATEFUL FOR THAT UNBELIEVABLE SALVATION AND TO ALLOW HIM TO USE US FOR HIS WILL.  It IS our job to work to thin our flesh.  It IS our job to turn away from the darkness and strive towards the light.  To humble ourselves and recognize we are nothing without Him. It IS our job to set an example for others and to teach as much as we can.  To WALK THE WALK, not just TALK THE TALK.  To grow and to learn and to live for HIM!

The level of our righteousness in our CONDITION is largely determined by us.  And it is completely indicative of the depth of our faith and our commitment to God’s will.  We aren’t trying to impress God, we are trying to show Him to others.  We are His vessels. We are his tools. We are His children.  And it’s our job to take even the slightest bit of the burden Jesus Christ carried and GLORIFY HIM!

So let’s stop making excuses. Let’s strive to thin that flesh. Let’s strive to improve our condition.  Let’s strive to glorify Him and serve Him.  To thank Him for the undeserved, unbelievable grace that He offers us. Let’s strive to live righteous lives!