Monday, September 27, 2010

I Need You, Jesus.

I sat pondering why I felt so... average. Where had my joy gone? Where was the unabounding, all consuming joy that permeated every aspect, ever breath, every thought of life? I spoke with a friend. They asked what had happened? Who had done it? Why was I so down? I explained to them, it was no one. Nothing. It was all inside. I didn't care anymore, there was no motivation. I had lost my fire. And then it hit me. I needed my Jesus back. He was the only reason for doing anything. And so I told my friend that I knew what was wrong. I needed my Jesus as my focus. When that thought came the sweetest thing happened. I heard a song in my head- one of my favorite worship songs. The verse I remembered is as follows.

And I need you Jesus to come to my rescue.
Where else can I go?
There's no other name by
which I am saved.
You capture me with grace,
I will follow You.

I felt the tears come immediately to my eyes. What a sweet thing I had, and yet I had fallen away from, even if not completely. I was looking at the dirt and the stones around the cross-the ordinary things- but I was no longer seeing the cross. And him. And what he'd done for me, so that I could have fire, so that I could have joy, so that I could have peace.

I was focused on something that was, in itself, not all satisfying. Whether we focus on school, careers, marriage, reading, music, etc. as our ultimate goal, our end in life, we will always find discontentment and satisfaction. Nothing is an end in itself but God. If you focus on school, you'll get school; if you focus on reading, you'll be read; if you focus on music, you'll get music. That's how it is. When you achieve it, that's it. Life is empty. It doesn't go beyond that. But when we focus on God, we focus on someone that is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and never ending. There is no end. We never reach a point of achievement in which we throw our hands up and say "What now?". And the pursuit of God gives so much more than the pursuit of anything else. If marriage is your chief end, you'll get marriage. But if God is your chief end, you get eternal life and oftentimes a marriage as well. A marriage cannot be all satisfying, but God more than satisfies.

We must choose to drop our focus on the things of life and the things of this world and focus on the only thing that remains stable and true. This life is shallow, deceitful, and short. If we sow the seeds of our life there, we shall reap them there. We need to look ahead and determine now what end we choose for ourselfs. For me, the only true end in itself is Jesus Christ.

Philipians 1:21 sums it up so well stating "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

Monday, September 13, 2010

We Are Called to Be Ourselves

We found this excellent blog post by We Shall Speak team member Hannah Marie, and with her permission, aew sharing it with you all. You can check out her blog here, for more insightful posts!

As you read through the following post, please take your time to read it and evaluate it's message. It is a very important message that relates to each and everyone of us whether we are far along in our walk with Christ, or just beginning. For those that aren't Christians, these are still words that I hope you will take to heart. This is an excellent picture of what a walk with Christ will do in you.

A couple days ago, an acquaintance of mine came up to me and said "I need to talk with you about Christianity." Of course, me being how I am said 'absolutely' and followed them to a quieter place to discuss it. And the conversation went something like this:

"I hear so much about 'becoming more like Jesus' and taking on the characteristics of the Savior from so many Christians. Yet, I am not looking for that. I am not looking for becoming somebody or taking on characteristics of someone else. I have tried that so many times throughout my years and it has never made me happier or more satisfied. Yet, Christian's claim that taking on the characteristics of someone else, this one person, is supposed to fill me up? I really don't get it. I don't want to become someone; I want to be who I am and stay that way."

"I see what you are saying, but I think you have it all wrong. God isn't asking you to change who you are; God is asking you to follow Him. Jesus isn't looking for a duplicate of Himself; Jesus is looking for someone who is willing to follow Him in achieving the same purpose in life. Sometimes people make Christianity more into a religion than the relationship it actually is. Religion demands you change; relationship gives new direction."
"Okay, so am I actually supposed to change?"

"No, you are not supposed to change. In fact, you cannot make yourself change. The change happens as the Lord shapes your life around His purpose."

While there was more to that specific conversation, this little bit started me thinking. I find so many Christians who are seeking change and cloaking themselves with rigorous schedules or enhanced knowledge simply to get further towards that change. Sometimes we naturally begin to equate 'becoming more like Christ' to 'changing who we are.' We make Christianity a religion rather than a relationship. We create expectations for ourselves that cannot be achieved by ourselves. And we deceive ourselves into thinking that God will help us achieve what we have now set out to accomplish.

Let me explain it this way: come to the Lord as you are, with the characteristics that you already possess, and continue to possess those characteristics throughout your relationship with Him. God is not going to strip the characteristics you already have in order to make you a brand new person, but He is going to give you a new purpose for which you are to use those characteristics for. Before you were brought into His grace, the purpose by which you lived your life by amounted to nothing other than self-fulfillment and sin. But, upon entering into a covenant with Christ, the purpose by which you live your life becomes one of glorifying Him and being a light to Him. Those same qualities you possessed before are the same that you possess afterwards. However, the purpose with which you implicate those characteristics and the goals in which you strive to achieve through utilizing those qualities changes.

If you are naturally sacrificial in nature, then you will continue to be sacrificial, but to a different end. If you are naturally an introvert, then you will continue to be an introvert but to a different purpose. If you are naturally a talker, then you will continue to be a talker but to a different message. If you are naturally a wood-worker, then you will continue to be a wood-worker but to a different result. Your identity and who you are will never be lost; they will be redefined. You can be your complete and total self with the Lord, but do not expect to stay the same throughout the relationship. God loves to let His light change people by the way of making each and every one of their individual characteristics be a magnetic to Him.

I know in my life I run across people who have completely different qualities and beliefs on certain issues than I do; they have different strengths or outlooks. Too often a time have I looked at their qualities and coveted them because I think they are better or more developed than mine are. Recently, I have begun to fully realize that if I took on their qualities, I would lose my identity and end up pursuing another identity. When we are walking with Christ, we do not lose our identity; we give it a new focus. My tendency to give up my life for another without hesitation is a gift from God that I can pursue all for His glory. Another person may view my attitude as reckless and that view can be used for the glory of God as well. We are not all to become clones to one another; we are to provide balance to one another.

That is why the body of Christ, the church, is so important; that is why fellowship is so important. Where others go one way, there is always someone else who goes the opposite way. And we need those people to occasionally knock sense into us and realize that we may not be using our qualities to the glory of the Lord as much as we think we are. The whole message of Christianity is not to change into another person but rather to let the relationship with the Lord of Heaven and Earth change the ideals that we so desperately pursue, to change the direction we are headed. So, we may all take comfort in the fact that we are not called to be someone else; that is religion. Instead, we are called to pursue something else; that is relationship.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Path

A friend, Holly Hutcheson, and I were discussing some of the topics on the Rebelution forums, which then led to a concern that branched out into other areas of our lives. We were noticing a distinct pattern and trend that was somewhat hard to detect, though it was before our very faces. We talked for a while on it, and came up with this story to present it to you. We hope that it accurately portrays what we are seeing, though in metaphorical light.

The Path

She tossed and turned. A frown pulled at the corners of her lips, her brow creased with anxiety. She teetered between deep sleep and seeming consciousness. One moment she knew she was in her bed, the next she found herself in a strange dark place.

Where am I? She groped through the dark. She knew there had to be a way out. What is this? Is that a light? How do I get out of here?! She slowly groped towards the pinpoint of light. She was drawn to it; she instinctively knew it was her only way out. She felt herself growing closer… she began to run towards it, clawing for the light. It was what she wanted more than anything else; she knew it. There it was. She grasped at it, tumbling forward into the darkness, but landing in the light.

It was dim, but to her weak eyes it was painful. She scrambled to her feet. Before her lay a wooded forest; it stretched for miles. Running straight and true through the middle was a narrow path. On either side, it was mud and quick sand. What do I do from here? Where do I go? She need not ask. She knew she was to walk the path ahead. She knew the light was her salvation.

Looking over her shoulder at the pitch black cave behind her, she wanted it more than anything. She ran towards it at a sprint, the light around her growing. A mile down the path she slowed to a jog, slowly bringing herself to a walk. She was weakening. The light was growing brighter, hurting her eyes as she went. She stopped. Turning around she stared at what was behind. It was a mountain with a large black cave, its mouth staring ominously at her. That was what she had escaped from. She was awed. What was that? Did something just move? Her breathe caught in her throat. She saw it emerge from the trees.

It was a black, hooded figure; burly and tough, it began grabbing and clawing inches from her throat. The light. I need the light. It was a fleeting thought, but she turned and ran, stumbling as she did, towards the light. The trees. I can lose it in the trees. I’ll hide until it passes. She stepped off the path, mud oozing up to her ankles. She grabbed onto a tree and held onto it until she saw it disappear on the other side. Pulling her feet out of the sticky mud, she stepped back onto the path.

She walked briskly along, still heading towards the light. Did I hear something? Where is it? Should I go back into the trees? Maybe if I work through the trees it won’t catch up to me. She stared at them, pondering the wisdom of such a thought. It made sense. She side-stepped into the trees again and began making her way forward. Progress was hindered; she wasn’t making good time. Her feet were sticking in the mud, each step a laborious trial. But I’m safe here. I’m avoiding the figure and making progress. I’m doing well. She couldn’t see a burly shadow behind her, following her, and content to let her try to reach the light by this route. With a little guidance, she’d never make it there.

She peered over her shoulder. Nothing. She forged ahead, her breathing becoming slow and heavy. She rested herself behind some trees more than others. They were comforting. She was escaping the black-hooded figure; she was forging ahead. It was time to gain some more ground. She headed towards the path. I was farther from it than I thought. The light… it’s hurting my eyes. Her eyes readjusted. She was on the path again. She turned.

The mountain was farther away, but she still had miles to go. She was weakened from the strain of drudging through the muddy woods. She attempted to jog, but was slowed to a walk. She looked yet again over her shoulder. There he was. Again. He was farther away this time, but she was still horrified at this thing, this monstrosity. Diving into the trees, she broke into the equivalent of a run, sloshing through the mud and clinging to the trees. She didn’t pay as much attention to where she was going; all she wanted was distance from this hooded figure. It was getting darker; the figure was getting closer.

The farther and faster she ran, the closer it got. The path, the path- The light! He’s scared of the light! Making her way back as deftly as she could, she arduously moved closer and closer. The path came into view. She saw light, and welcomed it, though it hurt. It took time; her eyes didn’t adjust so quickly, but she needed to move towards the light; she was nearing the end. She could feel it. Just a mile farther; then a half mile.

She looked over her shoulder; there it was, far behind her. Her feet grew stronger. She began to run. There it was; the edge of the forest, more beautiful than her mind could have dreamed. She finally passed the last tree, her feet bringing her to a stop in an open field. She had reached the light. There was no darkness. Looking down, where her dirty, mud splattered clothes should have been, she was clothed in white. She was safe. The race had been run.

She shot up in bed, gasping for air, groping in the dark. She wanted to write it all down; she wanted to forget nothing she had seen. She knew what it meant. She was sorry. She never realized it. The light of truth was hurting her eyes. She prayed. I’m sorry, God. I see it now. I thought I was doing right. I thought you wanted me to focus on the trees. I thought I could stay away from sin by focusing on escaping it. I know now… I need the light. I need You.


Hopefully this clearly illustrated for you what we are seeing. We feel that it is possible to become so focused on how to do this, or what not to do in that, that we lose focus on what really matters- Jesus Christ, the Cross, the sacrifice. As we grow closer in a relationship with Him, the rest will fall into place. As we continue to fall more in love with your Saviour, all the questions on how to deal with sin, how to guard our hearts, how to love our enemies, and how to respect the authority in our life, will be answered.