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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God’s Cry…

I love when God stirs my heart so violently that it shakes my stubborn hands into action. Sometimes He’s subtle and soft in His encouragements and guidance. Sometimes He is loud and uncomfortable and abrupt in His will. And then there are some times when He so clearly answers the cry of my heart that it is almost eerie–He answers so directly and so specifically that it leaves me wonderstruck.

This is one of those times.

It would not be a typical day if I didn’t question my true faith and obedience to the Lord at least a dozen times.  I feel like those are natural thoughts for an individual striving to know Christ more, love Christ more and trust Christ more.  There is this common misconception that Christians have some supernatural grasp on their faith and their walk with the Lord. But the fact of the matter is, the more you think you have figured out, the less you probably know.  Christianity is not meant to be comfortable and “figured out”. It is a faith of overwhelming humility and neediness. That constant state of tension is a beautiful thing–it reminds us how little we have figured out. It reminds us how desperately we need Him.

The more and more I have talked to non-believers and believers, alike, the more and more uncomfortable I’ve become with the state of Christianity today.  We are living in an age of hypocritical Christianity. We have churches void of Spirit. We have “Christians” void of faith. And we have lost and hurting people void of Light.  On one side, we have people SAYING they love Christ, but living lives guided by this world.  On the other side, we have people scorned by the guidance of this world, simply HEARING about Christ’s love.  But if there is no example being set, there is no Light being shined. If we are only saying and hearing, rather than DEMONSTRATING and WATCHING a world be healed through Christ’s love, we all simply find ourselves sitting in the DARKNESS.

We, as believers, are called to be the body of Christ. His hands. His feet. His love in a lifeless world. People need not to simply hear about that love, they need to see it and feel it and know it is real.  That is a big responsibility. But that is the call of our lives. One of the most heart-changing sermons I’ve ever had the privilege of sitting under was delivered by Francis Chan at Passion Conference 2012.  In the middle of his message he was telling a story and brought up the fact that God does not listen to all prayers…

 
–What? Hold on…That’s not what I’ve been told in the past. What ever happened to God hearing our cries? What ever happened to the all-knowing God? The one who loves and listens and answers all of our prayers…? What do you mean He ignores some?–

Chan continued on to address a verse that has since mesmerized me. Isaiah 1:12-19 says…
 

“When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations– I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land…”

 

Wow. If that stirs your heart as much as it stirs mine, I imagine you’ll need a moment to catch your breath.  What overwhelmingly convicting scripture.  What a call-out…

 

If you find that you’re upset right now, you should be. But I want you to take a moment to think about WHY you are upset.  Are you upset because you’re offended that God may ignore you at times? Is it because you think it’s unfair and judgmental that He would be selective in who He listens to and who He answers? If so, shame on you.

 

Or are you upset by this verse because you claim that you’re in a loving relationship with Christ, yet your promises and offerings and commitments to him are often shallow. I claim that I love Him, yet I rely on my own guidance. I rarely trust Him. I rarely take His words as literally as I should. I rarely act on the stirring of my heart.  Who am I to cry out in prayer for Him to bless me with things and do things in my life and help me, when I ignore Him the majority of the time.  What type of loving relationship is that?

 

As the body of Christ, as His hands and His feet, who are we to call out for His blessings when we are defiling His Kingdom here on earth with our lack of love and trust and faith in Him? We should be embarrassed of ourselves. As “Christians”, and as a church. Amos 5:21-24 goes on to say…

 
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” 

These verses have weighed so heavily on my heart lately.  I constantly cry out to God, yet I ignore Him when He cries out to me.  Healthy, loving relationships are not take-take relationships. They are give-and-take. They are balanced and developed in love. I found myself crying out to God the other day. Crying out for His blessings and His adornment in my life. Then I sat down at my computer and pressed play on my iTunes. Suddenly, He cried out, back to me…

The songs you sing My heart has grown to hate them
The meetings of the saints are all in vain
Under steeples marked with crosses I see darkness
For sin abounds under false pretenses

Wake up from your sleeping My redeemed
Remove the evil deeds from My eyes
See the orphan see the widow’s needs
Learn to get on your knees and serve each other

If you lift up your hands I will not see them
Even though your many prayers I will not hear
For My pleasure is not in the sacrifices
But in the righteousness of the heart that makes it

Wake up from your sleeping My redeemed
Remove the evil deeds from My eyes
See the orphan see the widow’s needs
Learn to get on your knees and serve each other

Your sins are like scarlet, but they will be white as snow
You wear evil like a garment, but I’m giving you a brand new coat
And if you are willing to live by all My commands
You will know Jesus and you’ll drink from the Father’s hands

Wake up from your sleeping My redeemed
Remove the evil deeds from My eyes
See the orphan see the widow’s needs
Learn to get on your knees and serve each other

“Madly In Love With You”

 

 

A musical letter from God to you…

Listen from the perspective of God singing each word to your heart.

 

 

 

 

“Madly In Love With You”

By: Sean McConnell

See you down there everyday
Trying to find a different way
To build some kind of ladder to the sky

Trying to find some way to see
Secrets of eternity, and they don’t come all at once
And you don’t know why

Well how do you think it feels to hear you screaming out my name
While all the while I’m trying to open up your heart
See you when you cry yourself to sleep
It’s tearing me apart

I know you wish you could see me
That’s the way it has to be
Someday you’ll understand,
don’t you lose your faith in me

I know you wish you could hear me
Sometimes it’s so hard to do
But every morning sunrise it says
I’m madly in love with you
Yes I’m madly in love with you
Yes I’m madly in love with you
Yes I’m madly in love with you

I know that you’re waiting for,
A chance to come in from the war
If only a moment, if only a day

A place where you feel safe and warm
A sanctuary from the storm
Until all of these questions fade away

But I cannot count on all the signs
You’ve passed away as mere coincidence
And im running out of ways to break through
Like a lonely lover, Waiting by the ocean
Ill never give up on you

I know you wish you could see me
That’s the way it has to be
Someday you’ll understand,
Don’t you lose your faith in me

I know you wish you could hear me
Sometimes it’s so hard to do
But every morning sunrise it says
I’m madly in love with you
Yes I’m madly in love with you
Yes I’m madly in love with you…

Imagine This…

Imagine you are a warrior that sneaks your way into a rival Kingdom. A Kingdom that you despise. Loath. Hate. You are praised by your people for infiltrating the Kingdom, and you are glorified for mocking the rulers of that nation.

While in the realms of the Kingdom, you make it a point to break every rule, resist all authority, and destroy all you can.  You degrade the people, you rob and destroy and disrespect. You murder all who try to stand up to you.  You take great joy in ruining all that you can find within the Kingdom; disgracing the authority and criticizing the nation. The longer you terrorize the nation, the more you are praised by your people.

After years of evading capture, antagonizing the locals and degrading all authority, you are finally caught red-handed. You are seized by authority and brought before the rulers of the land.  You are soaked in the blood of those you have murdered and robed in the garments you stole and the jewels you confiscated. You are guilty, beyond a shadow of a doubt. And the penalty for your crimes is death.

Not a simple and swift death. A gruesome, humiliating, painful, slow death.  A death that kills you before your life is taken–a death that degrades you, pains you, rapes your dignity and spirit in a calculated, excruciating manner. This is your penalty. This is how you will die.

But as you kneel before the rulers of the nation, head hung in shame, awaiting your gruesome verdict, you feel a hand rest on your shoulder. When you look up you see the Prince of the Kingdom has risen from his throne and stands in front of you before the King. Before your fate can be sealed, the Prince takes a stance in your favor.

“Take my life, instead,” you hear the Prince say. “I will die in his place.”

You are stunned. Confused. Speechless. You had never met the Prince before this moment. You had never spoken with him or done anything for him or done anything for his people. Choking back tears and stumbling to catch your breath, you ask a humbled ‘why’?

The Prince simply replies, “Because I love you.”

Though you can see the King’s heart is broken, he nods in approval and your life is spared.

The Prince dies in your place.

A gruesome, humiliating, painful, slow death.  A death that kills him before his life is taken–a death that degrades him, pains him, rapes his dignity and spirit in a calculated, excruciating manner. This is YOUR penalty. Yet this is how HE dies–even though He did nothing wrong. He simply offered to save you.

After the Prince’s death, you stand face-to-face with the King again.  Your clothes are no longer blood-stained. You have been bathed, fed, cared for and groomed. You stand in front of the King–a King who has just watched his own son die in your place–free of all charges. You are found innocent. Acquitted on all counts.

Then, something unique happens. Rather than being escorted from the Kingdom and taken back to your people, you are welcomed to stay. Not simply to stay in the land–you are welcomed into the Royal Family. Your life is not only spared, you are invited into the castle and crowned as royalty.

After everything you did to their Kingdom and their people, they forgive you. They call you one of their own. You sit in the Highest Court.

Humbly, you hang your head in shame and again ask why…

“Because we love you,” the King replies.

“What did I do to deserve this freedom? What did I do to earn it?” you ask.

Nothing.

“…then why?”

“Because we love you.”

*****

Did you enjoy that story?

Does it sound familiar?

That is love.

That is salvation.

THAT IS THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.

*****

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

Fearless Failure

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.” –2 Timothy 1:7

What is your biggest fear?

Think about it…what scares you?

Are you scared of snakes? Spiders? Heights? Are you scared you won’t be able to provide for your family? Job instability? Financial insecurity? Are you scared of the bullies that degrade you? The men that hurt you? The tears you may cry? Are you scared of injury…what about death?

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Everyone is fearful of something. No matter if you are a 300 lb. lineman, a 3rd grade ballerina, a 57-year-old business man–or anyone in between–we all face fear. When I sit back and think about the things that have scared me over the years, I can’t help but notice a pattern. Whether directly or indirectly, all of my personal fears are linked to one topic: failure.I think the majority of our fears are rooted in the same thing–the fear of failure.  The fear that we will let down the people around us, the fear that the people around us will let us down, the fear that we will let down ourselves.  So many things are so very scary…

When I was very young, I was haunted by the fear that I would be kidnapped and hurt. Granted, I grew up in the early 90’s, an era when child abductions hit the media like a firestorm. To make matters worse, my parents went to church with John and Patsy Ramsey, the parents of JonBenet Ramsey. For those of you who don’t know, the JonBenet Ramsey murder was one of the most publicized unsolved murders of our time. JonBenet was 6 years old. I was 7 years old. When a 7 year-old hears things on the news and sees her parents so emotionally invested in the tragedy, it is hard to wrap your head around the complexity of the situation. So, my mind only went one place–I am next. The “bad guys” are coming for me. Almost nightly I would have nightmares that I would be taken and that nobody would help me or find me—that my parents would fail at protecting me.

Through my young schooling, I was fearful of getting bad grades.  I wanted to be the best that I could possibly be, and I wanted to make my parents as proud as possible.  I have always been a perfectionist, and I have always been competitive.  I was reared under a sister who was brilliant–literally, a borderline genius. (This is a girl who was kicked out of her second grade class for arguing with her teacher that negative numbers did, in fact, mathematically exist and that the teacher was incorrect in teaching the other students that 5 could not be subtracted from 3. Seriously? I was the kid that was kicked out of my second grade class for sniffing glue, getting dizzy, falling backwards out of my chair and hitting my head on the whiteboard. Haha. This is also the girl who would play “the classroom game”  with me when we were little and try desperately to teach me about exponents and exponential factors…I was 6. She couldn’t understand why all I wanted to do was dance to Spice Girls when there were derivatives to learn!) To say the least, we were very different, but growing amidst her brains and my competitive spirit, it fostered a desire in me to be better, to be smarter, to be the best. And, later in life, any time I failed and didn’t do as well as I know I could have on a school assignment—I failed myself. And, in my eyes, I failed my parents.

Fast-forward through a decade or so of fears and failures. To list all the times I’ve failed would take another decade, so I will simplify by saying that I’m a failure. Aren’t we all? And while my fears and failures molded and shaped me, the worst was yet to come. For the sake of saving time and space, I will not rewrite my testimony (you can read back in the “My Story” portion for details) but I will share with you my most epic fails.

In high school, I feared non-conformity. I feared a lack of control, and I feared judgement. I feared food. I fell into an eating disorder that crippled me, consumed me, defined me. In highschool, I failed myself.

In college, my father failed me. My hero, my best friend, my everything. He feared…he failed…and he fled. On January 3rd, he put a gun to his heart and pulled the trigger. In college, my father failed me.

That year, I feared the pain I felt. I tried everything I could to fill it. I drank, I partied, I lost myself. I feared the darkness and I feared the weakness. I failed to hold my own head high. That year, I failed my innocence.

Later on, I feared for my own life. I failed at driving. I wrapped my Jeep around a tree and feared I would never be saved. I choked on blood and hung broken and battered. On that drive, I failed myself.

Between those points and since that time, I’ve failed and failed and failed.

How do you recover from a life defined in failure? How do you emerge from a life constrained by fear?

We will FAIL constantly. Others will constantly fail us. We will fail others, and we will fail ourselves.  The people around us will fail, circumstances will fail, expectations will fail. You will fail at reaching goals, your friend will fail at supporting you when you need it most. Marriages will fail. Job opportunities will fall through and fail. The stock market will fail, the government will fail. Your boyfriend/girlfriend will fail to provide you with the love you need. You will fail at filling your emptiness with drugs and sex. You will fail tests, fail deadlines, fail budgets. We will slip, and we will fail.

BUT GOD NEVER FAILS.

In the days of my youth, God comforted my worries.  He worked through my parents and protected my heart. God Never Failed.

He calmed my worries over grades and school. He blessed me with the desire to persist and to learn. God Never Failed.

As I battled with bulimia, He clung tight to my body. He protected my health, and nourished my soul. God Never Failed.

As I stared at my daddy’s lifeless body, He wept alongside me and lifted me up. God Never Failed.

As I battled depression in a drunken stupor,  I gave pieces of myself away to boys. But God fought for my purity like a relentless warrior, and though I was battered and broken, He held my virginity with poise. God Never Failed.

As I hung upside down and choked on my blood, He appeared to my heart and found His way in. God Never Failed.

I tell you all this to inspire your hearts! Life is hard. So hard. And we’re really bad at it. We are fallible humans and we mess up constantly. We fail and we fear. We fear and we fail. But as it says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus Christ DID IT! He came and He lived so perfectly. He never failed. And He never will fail. He died for you. He died so that you can ALWAYS be given new life! So that you can ALWAYS start fresh, clean the slate, and turn a new page.  As he hung on the cross, your fears and your failures were nailed to the cross alongside Him! When we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, we accept a spirit of POWER and LOVE and SELF-DISCIPLINE! We welcome a spirit of forgiveness and grace and second chances!

We serve a God of second chances…we serve a God of LIFE! Alone, we are nothing. We are failures and we are bound by fear. But in CHRIST, we are infinitely strong! We are indestructible! We are SAVED!

What is there to fear?!

At the end of my days, I don’t want people to say that I lived a fearful, timid life. I want them to say that my spirit was POWERFUL in Christ, that I LOVED like Christ, and that I was SELF-DISCIPLINED through Christ.

How will you be remembered…?

God Is Not A White Man…

Just wanted to share the basic, beautiful lyrics to a song I ran across today.  Not to mention, the link to the awesome music video! These words may seem simple…silly even. But, while listening to the music, it brought me back to a state of child-like wonder. In our attempt to “figure everything out”, we seem to make everything twice as complicated. So sit back, put on a smile, and enjoy the simplicity of this light-hearted truth.  🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WybvhRu9KU

God Is Not A White Man

by Gungor

God is not a man
God is not a white man
God is not a man sitting on a cloud

God cannot be bought
God will not be boxed in
God will not be owned by religion

But God is love, God is love, and He loves everyone
God is love, God is love, and He loves everyone

God is not a man
God is not an old man
God does not belong to Republicans
God is not a flag
Not even American
And God does not depend on a government

But God is good, God is good, and He loves everyone
God is good, God is good, and He loves everyone

Atheists and Charlatans and Communists and Lesbians
And even old Pat Robertson, oh God He loves us all
Catholic or Protestant, Terrorist or President
Everybody, love

Oh, la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
Yeah, I say God is love, God is love, and He loves everyone
La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la
Stop the hating, please just stop the hating now cause God is love
Oh, whoa, la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la

What is Salvation? (part 3–Our Savior)

Here we go! We discussed the original sin. We discussed our condition as humans because of that. We discussed the only way to “fix” that–a human’s sacrifice to repay a human’s sin. A man for a man–to save ALL men! So here comes the most beautiful part of the whole equation–our Savior.

Let’s face it, we were all doomed to spend eternity in hell. (If you don’t get what I mean when I say that, read back to “What Is Salvation?” parts 1 and 2.)  By no fault of our own, we were all damned.  Why? Because we are human beings! We are inherently flawed. We are imperfect. We are dumb, selfish, lustful, greedy, hateful, jealous…we just aren’t as cool as we seem to think. Haha. Trust me, I’m the worst of these. I, too, am as human and as flawed as they come! If I were alive in the time of the Old Testament, I would have stood no chance. No chance at heaven…no chance at hope. We all would have been screwed.

But, low and behold, God knows this. And He loves us. He yearns to spend eternity with us. We are His children. We are literally His creations. He is proud of us…He is jealous for us. He desires our hearts. And that is why He sent His Son–just as the prophets had declared time and time again in the Old Testament (check out Acts 4:26-28; Ephesians 1:3-6; Revelation 13:8) Like we have discussed so many times before, He grants us free will. He grants us the right to choose.  He honors us with freedom. He desired for us to have the opportunity to exercise this power…and He recognized that the only way for our sins to be forgiven was through the actions of another human being. Since the actions of the first human being (Adam), had introduced sin into the world, the actions of another human being (Jesus), had to rectify that failure.  That was the only way we, as people, could tangibly see and feel and experience God’s love, and be taught of His grace and His mercy.  It had to be done through a man.

So God sent the Messiah. A human being that was 100% human, and 100% God at the same time. Imagine that! This man was perfect. PERFECT. Like we have talked about before, and like we will continue to study in more detail throughout the year, this man lived flawlessly. He taught of God’s love, He exhibited healing, He performed miracles, He saved hearts.  He walked perfectly in accordance to God’s will and achieved feats outside of human comprehension. Feats of humility, magnificence, and truth. Now, let me remind you, this was a real man.  This is not some made up story. All historians, both believers and non-believer, alike, recognize that Jesus Christ was a real man who walked this earth. And boy, oh boy, did He stir up some attention. 🙂

This man acted, daily, in accordance to God’s desires.  He stirred nations.  He baffled Kings. He literally changed history.  And no life was left unchanged throughout the history of Jesus’ existence.  All the while, He told the people of the nations who He was–the Son of God.  He preached it time and time again.  He proved it time and time again. And He consistently lived out His Word.  This man NEVER faltered. All that He taught of came to fruition.  All that He spoke came to existence.  Jesus Christ was an extraordinary man.  A man who taught us EXACTLY what it looks like to live a righteous life.  A man who healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted widows, clothed the poor. His life was a testament of sacrifice.  He was the most humble of individuals. He solicited no publicity, sought no treasures…He simply lived. And He lived magnificently for God.

He faced adversity, He faced hatred, He faced condemnation. He was criticized, He was tormented, He was falsified…and, ultimately, He was crucified. Want to know the most amazing part, He knew He would be.  Jesus Christ knew that He would be hung from a cross and murdered at the hands of sinners. He told his disciples time and time again that He would face this pain.  BUT, He assured them not to be dismayed.  You see, Jesus knew exactly what He was getting himself into.  He knew the fate he faced.

This man WILLINGLY and HUMBLY, took the burden of every single human being onto his shoulders.  Every tear, every scream, every cry, every pain, every scar, every insecurity, every lie, every failure…everything…He gladly accepted the weight of our sins and our misery. He was beaten within an inch of His life. Tormented, dishonored, and nailed to a cross. And all the while, He had peace in His heart. Knowing that His death would mean life for all of us. Imagine the most pain you have ever been in…the deepest your heart has hurt, the saddest and most desperate you have ever been. Jesus felt that for you. He carried that agony. He hung with it on the cross.

The kicker? The whole time Jesus was like, “Don’t worry guys, they are going to kill me, but I’m going to come back to life. Just wait and see, I’m going to prove it to all of them–I’m going to prove that I’m the Son of God.” People judged Him, that laughed at Him, they doubted Him…and then He rose. 🙂 Jesus Christ literally rose from the dead. It is a documented, historical, unbelievable, beautiful FACT. This man rose! He lives! He did it! All the haters, all the doubters, all the sinners literally stood there with their mouths hung open and were like, “Ooooooh man. This looks really bad on us.” Haha. Jesus Christ stuck it to the man! He PROVED that He was the Son of God by doing exactly what He said He was going to do…HE ROSE!

Wow. Wow. Wow. AND THIS IS THE SUPER ABBREVIATED VERSION!! Haha, God is SO GOOD! It’s so tough to put it all into words. Jesus Christ did it! And BECAUSE He did it, we are offered salvation. We are redeemed! We can now join God in heaven! We can now attend THAT party for all of eternity rather than agonizing in hell. HE SAVED US! Holy cow, He saved us. What a magnificent God we serve. A God that sacrificed His SON so that I, a sinner and a liar and a gross human being, could have a second chance! I, the lowest of the low, the grossest of the gross, have a second chance. All it takes is for me to believe in what Jesus Christ did for our hearts.

Unreal. We serve a God of second chances!…Do you need one?

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 Salvation? (part 1–the original sin)

We have talked all about our position in Christ and our condition in Christ. We have looked at a graph that depicts these two things, and we have talked about how we can grow in our conditions.  We have defined what righteousness is and we have found countless scriptures that illustrate this very topic. We have learned about the change that takes place within us when we believe in Jesus Christ, and we have studied why it is so very important that Christians strive to grow and to teach. But all the while, we have danced around the topic of salvation. What IS salvation? What does it mean to be saved? What does it look like? What is the significance of believing in Jesus Christ? What does His life even represent?

There are so so so many questions that surround the idea of salvation.  There is so much confusion and misrepresentation in our world today, as well. So I want to start at the beginning and break it down, piece by piece.  To reintroduce topics that are overlooked and to clarify points that are often left in the shadows.  Ah! I LOVE this topic!! The salvation that is offered to EVERY SINGLE PERSON on this planet is so unbelievably beautiful, and SO unbelievably humbling.  This is the bread and butter…this is the mac-daddy…this is the grand prize! Let’s take a look.

Okay, in order to understand why it is even necessary to care about what Jesus Christ did, we have to rewind allllllllll the way back to Adam and Eve.  I am going to explain all of this in the simplest way possible, because I don’t want to throw anything over anybody’s head or drown this awesome message in excessive detail and historical overflow. (Plus, I am still learning about it all, as well!) But here is the deal…after God created the heavens and the Earth and all that is encompassed within that perfection, He created man. He created Adam, and eventually Eve, in His image.  At this point, there was already an existence of evil.  Satan had already defied God and descended to hell, so God had already acknowledged the right of free will. (That is, the ability for man to choose between right and wrong.)  The book of Genesis describes of the perfection of this garden. Adam and Eve had all they could ever want and need there, and there was no existence of sin. They were simply instructed not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Essentially, they were commanded not to disobey and sin against God.  However, Satan appeared in the form of a serpent and tempted Eve to eat from the tree.  In the truest and simplest of terms, this was the first presentation of evil. And temptation. And deceit.  Eve was drawn to sin through Satan and she then led Adam to eat from the tree and sin, as well.

BAM. There it was. In the instant that Adam, the FIRST man on this planet, sinned again God, everything changed.  Sin was born in man. You see, every single person on this planet is a descendant from Adam and Eve. So think about it…Adam committed the first sin. Adam and Eve screwed up from the get-go and, therefore, every single person born from that line is embodied in sin.  We are born into a world of sin and we are prone, as humans…as descendants from the very first sinner…to sin.  We are all sinners because we are all human.  Because of this original sin, every person born from that point on was doomed.

Well, crap…thanks a lot Adam.  Thank a lot Eve.  So now we stand no chance.  Now we are all screwed because of that one man’s decision.  An interesting concept, huh? That ANOTHER person’s sin could affect OUR salvation…(we will look at this in more detail later, and I will share with you the most earth-shaking realization I came to in my personal life with regards to this subject.) So there we were, a bunch of humans being bred from sin. A bunch of humans whose souls were fair game to Satan. Just imagine how upset God must have been…these beautiful humans he created hardly lasted a blip in time before they sinned! So what now? This is where the Old Testament takes shape.  God understood that man had sinned. And that now, every man was born from that original sinner.  So, he worked with us a little bit.  Rather than damning every sinner to hell, He began to establish rules.  This is what the Old Testament is full of…God set forth rules, communicated through divinely inspired prophets and other individuals, for the people of the Earth.  He basically said, Okay, everybody, if you want to stand a chance to spend eternity with me, you have to follow these rules.  Though you will never be completely pure, if you follow these rules, I’ll cut you some slack and you can strive to purify yourselves. (Those weren’t His exact words, haha, but work with me here. I’m trying to keep it simple :). )

The Old Testament of the Bible lays out what these rules were.  If you read throughout the Old Testament, the rules were insanely difficult for any human being to obey.  They were extensive and specific and very challenging.  And basically what the entire Old Testament explains is that nobody could do it. Every single person failed. Every single human being was incapable of following all of these rules and living a perfect life. So every single human being born as a descendent from Adam, a descendent of the original sin, was imperfect and sinful and flawed.

This is when God sat back and was like, Alright, time for plan B. Haha. There was a clear recognition that none of these people stood a chance.  Because of this one man’s original sin, humans had wound themselves into a web of tangled sin and greed and lust and deceit and all that is unrighteous.  Human beings were caught in Satan’s snare and stood absolutely no chance of achieving salvation.  They all stood no chance of spending eternity with God.  So what did God do?….Enter, Jesus.

(to be continued…this next part is great!)