In Response to “Mo-vember”

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” –James 4:10

It’s hard to believe that it is already mid-November.  Ten and a half months into my year-long intimacy fast, and I have

never felt so alive!

If you are in-touch with pop-culture, I’m sure you’re familiar with “No Shave November”–a month dedicated to raw masculine appeal. A month defined by spectacular, untouched facial hair. A month honoring the finest form of upper-lip artwork…the mustache. That curly-haired lip caterpillar is so spectacular, it redefines a month. Turning what used to be “November” into “Mo-vember”–a true honor for the studly ‘stache.

Though I’ve had a few friends joke, here and there, about the name of the month corresponding with my name, it wasn’t until recently that I paid much attention to the title–and for unique reason.

You see, this month has been marked by incredible emotion. Intense highs, stunning lows–ultimately, immeasurable blessings.  The three most notable events stand at the forefront of my mind. First, the conclusion of my 16 year soccer career–a loss in the NCAA tournament that closed one of the most extensive and defining chapters of my life, and ended my college career on the LSU Soccer team. Secondly, being voted by my peers and crowned the 2011 LSU Homecoming Queen–an overwhelming introduction to the newest chapter of my life, and a humbling honor that has countless layers of significance to my heart.  And lastly, winning the online fan vote for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award–an award with an overall winner still yet to be named, but with a message of support that floored me. Literally.

It wasn’t until just a few days ago, in the aftermath of so much intense emotion, that I was walking to class and passed a group of college co-eds. As we shuffled by on the sidewalk, I smiled and waved, and they hollered out in kind support. “Congrats Mo! What a crazy year! You deserve it all! Everybody, it’s ‘Mo-vember!'” Little do they know, the things they yelled have turned my world up-side-down these past few days, and have stirred my heart to a new place.

Now before you roll your eyes, click away from the page, and dismiss me as a self-promoting narcissist, I encourage you to read on. Because the reason this phrase turned my world up-side-down, is likely not the reason you would assume.

Don’t get me wrong, the group that shouted their support–as well as all of the fantastic individuals who have written on my facebook wall, tweeted me, texted me, emailed me, and extended their love–have done so with the purest of intentions. All of your overwhelming love and encouragement and affirmation has meant more to my heart than I will ever be able to express. You have given me such joy, you have humbled me, and you have filled me with a passion that is overflowing. To all of the LSU students who voted for Homecoming, to the countless individuals who voted for the Lowe’s Award–often over and over again–, to every person, coach, player, and fan who has ever supported me through my soccer career…”Thank You” just simply isn’t enough. I don’t even know how to put into words the appreciation I have for you. The respect I have for you. The love I have for you. I wish there was a phrase so much grander than “thank you”. I wish I could hug each of you, look you in the eye, and share the passion I have for you. But I suppose I will leave it at a resounding “THANK YOU SO MUCH!” until the day I can shake your hand.

However, all of the praise and attention that has come in the past few months, and this month in particular, has truly humbled me to a new place. A place unfamiliar.

The phrase that has repeatedly echoed with the most intensity is, “What a crazy year!” I’ve heard similar dialog from others in the form of, “Wow, what coincidence that so much is happening all at once!”, and “This has been a storybook year for you.” While these comments and congratulations certainly make my blood pump and excite me, the fact of the matter is that they violently humble me.  And the most humbling element of all is that I should not be surprised.

I’m sure at this point you’re thinking, “Wow, this chick has got some real ego issues.” But I promise I am getting to the point. Hang with me.

Time and time again, the Bible assures us that if we make sacrifices for God, we will be rewarded. If we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. If we humble ourselves before our King, He will lift us up.  If we place our faith in Him, He will carry us.  That we are in this world, not of it. And if we can make ourselves uncomfortable in our own lives and obey the Word, we will bear fruit.

That is what this year has been all about in my personal journey.  Humbling myself to the King as best as I know how. Stepping away from my physical wants and desires and turning completely to God.  It has been a hard year. It has challenged me, it has hurt at time, it has left me vulnerable, embarrassed, weak, sometimes lonely.  It has taken every conscious thought of every single day to remain focused and remind myself why I am traveling through such an awkward journey.  Ultimately, time and time again, it has led me to the foot of the cross–pleading for answers, and weak in my inadequacy.

And now, as the year of an indescribable journey is coming to a close, He has followed through on His Word. What? Wow! Why does that shock me? I am supposed to be a solid believer. I am supposed to know that He will do what He says He will do in His Word.  I am supposed to have undoubting faith. So why do I find myself stunned at the end of this year as He lifts my spirit with such fantastic blessings? I suppose, yet again, I’m reminded why I am so human. Aren’t we all?

There is nothing coincidental about this year. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God: for he that comes to God must believe that He is King, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Read that again. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. He rewards our efforts to know Him more.  Trust me, I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I fail, daily. I sin, hourly. But when all is said and done, I find great humility in constantly seeking to know Him more. Constantly and diligently striving to give more of myself to Him, as best as I know how. At the end of the day, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God blesses those efforts. God smiles on those who love Him and those who use the platform He has blessed them with to glorify Him and His Kingdom.

That brings me to the next thing they hollered–the line that brings me to me knees at the foot of Christ. “You deserve it all!” What great intention so many have had in telling me that. I truly do appreciate your kind regards.  And I do understand what people mean when they express this form of congratulations.  But at the end of the day, I deserve nothing. We earn nothing. I’m sure you are thinking, “Where is this girl about to take this? That’s a kind compliment. Why does she always have to get so deep?” Haha. I know, I know. But there is a great lesson in great success.

Great athletes, great intellects, great entrepreneurs, great missionaries, great service men and women…all great individuals share commonalities. They work incredibly hard at what they do. They invest time, energy, effort, money, and passion into their talents.  They set themselves apart by their work ethic and determination, and often times they are rewarded in outstanding ways.  But at the end of the day, they earned nothing. We deserve nothing. We deserve death. We are sinners and we lie and we steal and we cheat and we lust. We are totally fallible and unworthy of God’s love.  BUT IN FAITH WE GAIN EVERYTHING.  Because Jesus Christ died on the cross, we gain salvation! We gain hope! Because God loves us so incredibly much, He sent His own Son to die for us. Because of THAT, alone, we gain life.

Wow! What a concept to wrap your mind around. In all we do, we deserve nothing. But God loves us so much, He yearns for us to love Him and to use His blessings to glorify Him! Every success I’ve ever had is due entirely to God. My health, my soccer career, my athletic achievements. All are due to the glory of God. I would be nothing without His grace. Every accomplishment, every blessing–from the smallest in scale to the grandest in size–are all due to God and His infinite glory. I deserve nothing. We deserve nothing. But we gain everything through God.

I am nothing. But Christ Jesus inside me is everything! We ALL share the ability to host the King of all Kings in our hearts. Every single one of us. No matter your past, no matter your present–you hold an unimaginable future! Let’s be diligent, let’s be faithful. Let’s seek Him FIRST.

 “For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation.” –Psalms 149:4

I want to know God more. I want to love God more. And because of that deep, active desire in my heart, God has blessed me with this mind-blowing month of “Mo-vember”.  Such a silly phrase. I wish “God-vember” rhythmed better. This is NOT “Mo-vember”. This is a great month of active blessing.  I hope ALL who see the earthly successes in my life know that those successes are trivial to the spiritual success of knowing Christ Jesus.  I hope people will yearn to love God with the same intensity they yearn to succeed.  I hope people will praise our King like they praise our athletic figures, movie stars and musicians.  I hope people will see, through my journey, that GOD FOLLOWS THROUGH ON HIS WORD.

It is not important what you wear, how you look, where you live, what you drive.  It is not important how many championships you have won, how many trophies you have, or how popular you are.  It is not important that I have broken records, been crowned Homecoming Queen, and won popular fan voting for the Lowe’s Award.

It is important that we know God. It is important that we love God. And it is important that we diligently seek Him, and give Him praise in all we do. I promise you, with every fiber in my being, that if you put God first, you will know His blessings.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” –James 4:8

Advertisements

“My King is the King of your king”

 

“My King is the King of your king”

By: Mo Isom, 2011

 

My King is the King of your king,

my King gave your king life.

My hope hopes that your hope will learn to hope,

in all that is True and Right.

 

My faith has faith that you’ll find faith,

when faith seems all but lost.

My heart has a heart for your heart and knows

your heart was bought at a cost.

 

My trust trusts that you’ll learn to trust

in a Trust that you cannot see.

My mind keeps in mind that all that’s Divine

minds only that your mind believes.

 

My dream is a dream that you’ll one day dream

of an answer to dreams in your mind.

My conviction’s convicted that you’ll be convicted

that the Answer is not hard to find.

 

My life has lived life in this lifeless world,

and lived empty, lifeless and cold.

But I feel that you feel what I felt and now feel

and you yearn for a life that is whole.

 

My purpose finds purpose in showing you Purpose

of a life lived in Purpose and Grace.

My soul’s sole intention is solely to mention

The Savior whose soul Saved your place.

 

Why do I know the things I know,

and what makes me so sure?

Because I know a man who lived in this world,

and lived nothing less than pure.

 

I know a man who gave His life

so that you could be set free.

And though you owe Him nothing for it,

you owe Him everything.

 

Check the history books, check the facts and figures,

He was real, He lived and He died.

Then He rose from the dead to prove He was King

and to give you eternal life.

 

You’re now left at a crossroad with two paths to choose,

the choice here is black and white.

Pray the King of all Kings may enter your heart,

or keep living a life void of Light.

 

If you chose the first option your life’s bound to change,

you’ll come to know faith, hope and peace.

But if you choose to ignore, if you close off the door,

you’ll keep living a life incomplete.

 

When it comes the day that your days draw close,

I hope you know where your spirit will land.

But if you’re unsure, and your hearts’ still impure

take this moment to hold His scarred hand.

 

My King is the King of your king,

my King gave your king life.

My hope hopes that your hope will learn to hope,

in all that is True and Right.

 

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

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…

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…?

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!)

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!

Position .v. Condition In Christ… (part 2)

Alright, to pick up where we left off, let’s take a look back at this awesome visual…

We discussed an overview of what the graph represents and what the lines and colors represent up until the big “dot”. Then we discussed that, BAM!, that dot represents something so unbelievably powerful–that dot represents our salvation! (If you missed yesterday’s post, I would encourage you to look back and read it so that you can follow along from this point on.)

Alright, so our life-line hits the point of our salvation and suddenly breaks into three trails. Immediately, in that instant, everything changes.  Don’t be mistaken here, being saved is not just an emotional movement. It is a literal change that takes place inside of us. We are physically filled with the Holy Spirit. We are unmistakably different.

Let’s take a look, first, at the blue line that immediately shoots straight up to 100% righteousness and then travels horizontally at 100% throughout the rest of our lives. This line represents our POSITION in Christ. In other words, this line represents what God sees when He looks at us.  We discussed earlier in the “Redefining Our Reflection” posts that after we are saved, when God sees us, He sees His Son in us. We are filled with the Holy Spirit. So no matter what we do, we cannot change that position. We are Saved. We are SAVED! Wow. Take a moment to let that sink in. THAT is God’s unbelievable grace. That is the TRUE definition of God’s unfathomable grace. That no matter who we are, no matter what we have done in our past, no matter where we came from…we are SAVED. Our souls are sealed. The red zone disappears because we are His. Can you even imagine that? That concept literally brings me to my knees. He would forgive a sinner like me? He would immediately, without question, secure my soul? I don’t have to prove anything to Him? I don’t have to be flawless or have a perfect past or even understand all there is to understand about Jesus? He loves me THAT much? YES. YES! YES!!! It’s unfathomable. It’s overwhelming. WHAT AN AMAZING GOD WE SERVE! WHAT A GRACIOUS KING!

THAT is what Jesus Christ’s life did for us. THAT is salvation. We will study much deeper into that a little later on. It is such an unbelievable concept. We will definitely return to it. But what an unbelievable truth. No matter what we did or what we do…no matter how many times we stumbled in the past or how many times we stumble in the future, if we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, that’s it. We are saved. Unreal. Check out this AWESOME verse. One of my favorites…

Paul, who once murdered Christians and was truly a horrible man–a man who society would dismiss and judge without thinking twice–was SO filled and moved by the Holy Spirit, that he wrote this scripture,

“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  The GRACE of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1: 13-14

Beautiful. He is so unreal.

Okay, now let’s take a look at the black, wiggly line that breaks from the salvation point. This line represents our CONDITION in Christ.  This is a line that is ever-changing.  A line that represents our walk with Christ and our growth in our faith.  It is wiggly because we are human.  Like we discussed before, we are bound by human flesh.  We are bound by temptation and emotion and greed and lust and everything else that falls into our human-nature. AND, to top it all off, we live in a world that sin thrives.  So this line illustrated our journey.  We have highs and lows in our walk. Everyone’s looks different. We have struggles, we give in to temptation, we learn, we grow, then we repeat it all again. We are incapable of doing it perfectly. But this line, this condition, is so important. Because this represents how Christ-like we are living our lives. And it represents how bright His light can shine through us to others.

In studying this line, you have to take into account the red line that breaks from the point as well. Just because we are saved, doesn’t mean Satan just goes away. No chance. He doesn’t have a shot at winning our souls anymore, but he definitely still has a shot at affecting our earthly condition in Christ.  Ideally, he would love for our paths to follow that red line’s course. That is what he is trying to drag us down to–because if we are incapable of rising above his lies, then we are incapable of properly teaching non-believers and spreading God’s word.  The more he can affect our condition, the more he causes confusion, and deceit, and temptation and resentment.

Our condition in Christ is basically what we work at our whole lives. The reason we study the Word and go to church and participate in fellowship and constantly strive to grow in our faith is so that we can grow in our condition. It is NOT so that we can “impress” God and get a better seat in heaven. No way. It is impossible to “earn” His love. It’s already granted–100%–when we accept His Son as our savior. I think we often have the perception that we are “working” our whole lives to “get in” to heaven. No. That’s just not the case.  What we are working at our whole lives is to grow closer to Him. To teach others and to share His love with as many people as we possibly can. Not just through our words–but through our actions and through our hearts.

Does that make sense? It’s so beautiful. It’s blindingly beautiful. And it’s so humbling.  I feel like this is a topic that isn’t taught clearly enough in our society.  So many people have such a skewed perception on what salvation really is and what our true purpose is, as Christians.  He loves us SO much and He asks SO little of us, but SO much of us at the same time. Nothing about our condition in Christ is easy. It’s so challenging. And it’s even harder growing in our condition in this world that we live in.  But that is what we strive for, as Christians.

So that is a general overview of that visual. I hope it all makes sense. In the next several posts, we will start to look at each specific component in much more detail.  We will break it down and see how it applies to our lives and how we can better understand it all. He loves us so much. That blue line says it all…