Reflection: On Location, week one

It all started in a garden.

And start in a garden it did. Do you ever think about Adam and Eve and wonder… why in the world did you think eating a piece of fruit would make you like God? How does that even make sense? I know I’ve wondered that.

Then I remember as silly as that sounds, Satan is the master of lies. That means he’s good at what he does. He can make stupid things sound not so bad. He can get inside your head and make you forget all that’s actually true.

Like me, you probably know this all too well. We’ve all dealt with temptations and lies before. Around this time last year, I was going through a situation that escalated way too quickly. When it first started, I had suspicions it wasn’t the best idea for me, but I bought into the lies I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It didn’t take long before I was in over my head.Not my will

It took a lot to “wake me up.” Even after I did, I was still shaking off the dirt. I think about issues I’ve known people to go through… Alcoholism, compulsive gambling, compulsive lying, cheating, stealing, etc… And on the outside, I wonder, how did any of that sound like a good idea? Then I think about my own life and the battles I’ve been through. It doesn’t sound like a good idea. It really doesn’t. It all starts with us buying into little lies. Little by little, we suddenly don’t even recognize it as wrong anymore. Either that, or we lie to ourselves to make us feel better.

Think about what Jason said on Sunday. We do our own will instead of God’s will. We listen to what we want. That’s exactly what Adam and Eve did. There are times we know something is wrong, but we don’t care. We do it anyway. A good example I can think of is a movie. So maybe it has some nudity. So maybe it isn’t that “moral…” I’m an adult so I can handle it. Right? Continue reading

Reflection: Acts, week 21

Has God ever promised you something?

I love Paul’s confidence in the words the angel gave him. They would all be ok even in the midst of a terrible storm.

Thinking about that promise God gave you… What happened? Are you still waiting on it? Have you started to lose hope?

Remember this: It will be as God said. Ken made a great point. No matter what we believe, whatever God says will be. His timing isn’t always “ideal” to us. Sometimes we wonder what he’s doing. Sometimes we start to doubt. But I can promise you… If God has given you his word, it will come to pass.Acts 27_25

What I find most difficult is when all is looking good and in line with what God said, and suddenly, things change. I think back on different situations and remember how my confidence was as high as Paul’s. I felt good, even in the middle of a storm. Then I felt myself slipping because the wind changed. If you think about what the angel told Paul, they said all passengers would be safe. There was no mention of when specifically that would be… And did you catch the part where Paul told everyone even though they would survive, they’d be shipwrecked on an island? Continue reading

Reflection: Acts, week 20

What is the hard, costly or dangerous thing God has called you to do?

That’s a good question. Maybe when Jason asked this on Sunday, you thought to yourself, I have no idea…

You’re not alone! I’ve learned a lot of us are so busy talking to God, we forget to listen. There could be something God has waiting for you. Just take a moment to ask and then listen. Or maybe you have a feeling as to what it is he is asking of you, but because it’s challenging, you’re not entirely convinced it’s what God wants. You figure it’s best to wait it out and see.Psalm 46_10

I remember I was in a tough situation with an old job I had. God provided a way for me to leave, but I was so afraid. I wanted to leave, but I was afraid of being bored or lonely… or worse, going back to that place I had been in when we first moved to Arizona. When we first got here, I was so stressed and had horrible chest pain… and I thought getting a job would fix everything. Honestly, that’s what I thought, even though it was silly. God is our peace and help. Jobs don’t fix problems. Money doesn’t fix problems. People don’t fix problems. God fixes problems! Continue reading

Reflection: Acts, week 19

When I was in high school, my mom let me borrow a “breakfast in bed” tray for an experiment I did. What did I do with it, you may ask? I wanted to see if people could tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi and which one they liked better. If you want to know the results, I honestly don’t remember, but it was a fun thing to do. I used the tray to hold little cups and serve them to people.

I left the tray somewhere in the school. My mom warned me when I took it to be careful. Don’t lose it.

I lost it. It was never retrieved. I remember the day well. My husband and I met in high school. We were outside talking for hours to the point where the school had been locked up for a good while; it was getting dark and chilly… I never saw that tray again.

I had to laugh a little when Jason said we typically take greater care when we are in charge of other people’s things because we don’t want something bad to happen on our watch. My poor mom… She borrowed me many things and I wasn’t always so good about giving them back. But let me tell you… If my sister borrowed something of mine and didn’t give it back, I would get so upset. You think I would learn. Or when someone stole my bag when I left it behind in the art room… I felt panicked knowing I might never see it again (and all I had in there was an old library card and maybe a dollar… I just really liked the bag).Luke 12

When I think about how everything we have is a gift from God, nothing is our own, a few things come to mind. We will need to answer for what we did with what God gave us, which could feel stressful or scary. But have you ever thought of it as peaceful? If you’ve been given a business to run with people you’re in charge of, I can only imagine there’s pressure to make sure you lead in an honest way. If you’re a parent, there’s pressure to make sure you raise your children in the right way. Because if you don’t do your job, that’s on you.

So what am I saying? How could any of that be peaceful? Continue reading

Reflection: Acts, week 18

I didn’t read the Bible a lot when I was younger. In fact, I never remember doing much of anything with it except looking at it on a shelf. It wasn’t until about a year ago I opened it and started studying.

Jason asked the question in church on Sunday… Do we believe the gospel still has the power to change a culture? I would also ask, do we believe Jesus has the power to change a culture?Gospel

We would never say no outright. But honestly, do we believe that? I struggled for a long time because it felt like the gospel was so distant from my life in this century. What does an ancient church or a man being healed from leprosy have to do with me? And Jesus isn’t here in the sense that I can’t see him like the disciples did. I think a lot of people feel this way. The gospel seems so old and unrelated to our lives today.

After I started studying the Bible and dug into it a little more, I started to make connections. I started to have realizations. God was showing me things. I don’t have leprosy, but God saved my unborn child. No doubt, that was a huge miracle in my life. And I wasn’t a part of a massive meal where we started with five loaves and two fish… but I remember not feeling well and needing to make dinner, praying God would give me the strength to do so. Guess what? I gained enough energy to get through it. Continue reading

Reflection: Acts, week 16

It’s really easy to see people as wrong, not lost.

We judge without always meaning to. It just kind of happens. We know other people are watching us too, and for a lot of us, that’s intimidating. Like Jason said in his sermon, we’re so afraid of being rejected, we never get the opportunity to see people consider or accept the message of Jesus…because we never try to share our faith. We’re afraid they’re going to see us as wrong. Or crazy. Or a weirdo.

The university I went to had a lot of interesting characters grace the campus. I can remember walking to class and seeing people standing on crates or small platforms, megaphones in hand, telling us we were all going to hell if we didn’t repent. Never once do I remember hearing any of those people say “God loves you,” or something along those lines. I do remember seeing some young people holding a sign that said, “Smile, God loves you,” on a street corner.Adobe Spark(29)

It may seem crazy, but I think a lot of my classmates thought that’s what being a Christian was…standing on a platform and criticizing everyone around them. Whenever I did get to talking about faith or God with my classmates, a lot of them thought Christianity was about rules and really old people and places that didn’t matter anymore. By contrast, one of my good friends in college was overwhelmed by the “rules.” She was so on fire for God and spoke up in class if a professor said something she didn’t agree with… but I remember on several occasions, she expressed concern she wasn’t going to church enough. She told me she had to miss a holy day because she had to study for a tough exam. I could tell she was legitimately bothered by missing it, and worried, actually worried, God was upset with her. It made me sad because she clearly loved God so much, but it didn’t always seem she believed he loved her. Continue reading

Reflection: Acts, week 15

Suffer well.

It just sounds weird in your mouth if you say it out loud. This week, we heard Jason talk about Paul and Silas in Acts chapter 16. They were beaten and tortured… and all they did was free a slave woman. But because she was a fortune-teller, and she previously earned her owners good money, they were very upset when they realized their way of getting that money was gone.

While in jail, Paul and Silas sang praises and prayers to God. An earthquake shook the prison, and all the doors opened. Their chains came off. Paul alerted the jailer they were all still around and did not escape, saving the man from killing himself in fear they were all gone on his watch.Adobe Spark(25)

No doubt the jailer was watching Paul and Silas and probably wondering how they could sing during such a time… or why they would bother to stop him from taking his own life. Their response to their situation was different. How many other prisoners did he see act in such a way?

The jailer decided he wanted what they had. He wanted to be saved. So he was baptized.

One thing I feel I’ve learned is not only should we suffer well, but we should live well. You really don’t know when someone’s watching, but chances are, someone always is. God has put me in situations, and I later realize it was so purposefully designed.

I remember one cold, winter day in college I was walking outside back to my car because I forgot my wallet. I needed it because I had a lunch meeting with someone. I went to college in Wisconsin, so as you might imagine, it was not warm at all. I can remember I didn’t have much of a coat on, so I was freezing. The art and music building was right across from the parking lot where my car was, but I was so cold, I went inside to warm up before going back out. Continue reading

Words of life

2016 was a crazy year. I worked and lived in three different states. I had a bit of breakdown near the end. All of the changes suddenly caught up to me, and I was starting to hate where I was. I couldn’t even look out my window. And the crazy thing is, we have an amazing view. A view so grand, our apartment charges us extra for it. Adobe Spark(21)

But it’s true. I couldn’t look. Not only that, I could hardly eat. Everything sounded and tasted gross. All I wanted at the end of the day was to go to bed so I could close my eyes. And I’ve never experienced such feelings in my whole life.

One afternoon, I started to completely unravel. I grabbed my Bible and clutched it to my chest and read out loud, through tears, Psalm 23. I read it and read it, but didn’t feel any different. I was confused and devastated. Why wasn’t it working? Why wasn’t I better? Continue reading

Reflection: Acts, week 13

When I was in high school, we had at least one foreign exchange student each year. Typically, people were very excited and eager to get to know them. Every once in a while, if they looked/seemed “really” different, people would shy away from them until they got to know them (sometimes “getting to know them” meant watching others interact with them).

Do you know what it’s like to be the different one?

I do, at least a little. I was the exchange student a few times, and I can remember sitting in class and the teacher saying something to me… Even though I knew the language, I wasn’t as fluent as everyone else, and the way they spoke made it hard to pick up on what was being said. I didn’t know what she said, but I tried to reply anyway. Everyone laughed. I was so embarrassed. I don’t think they were making fun of me, but my answer had to be funny considering I wasn’t sure what was said to begin with.Adobe Spark(17)

I remember appreciating those who made a point to welcome me and sort of take care of me while I was on my adventures. When things were difficult, I felt encouraged. They would remind me everything was going to be ok, give me a hug or pat on the back.

It’s easy to pass judgment on people. I think we all do it in some ways. Without knowing them, it’s easy to find something about what they’re wearing or doing that forms an opinion in our minds. Not all of our opinions are necessarily bad. I’ve found myself thinking, wow, they must be wealthy or she just looks like she’d be niceContinue reading

Reflection: Acts, week 12

You’re out of your mind.

That’s what the people inside the house said to the housekeeper when she alerted them Peter was at the door. Peter had been in jail surrounded by several guards when an angel came and told him to get up. His chains fell off and he left unscathed.

The church had been praying earnestly to God for Peter. Earnestly. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary says the word earnest proceeds from an “intense and serious state of mind.” In other words, they weren’t praying lightly or casually. They were serious. And yet when Peter showed up at the door, they didn’t believe it.

As Warren asked us yesterday… What do we expect? When we come before the God of the universe, what do we expect?

I was thinking about that. I think some of us may be under the impression miracles are few and far between. They happened back then, but for us in 2017, they just don’t anymore. Or we come before God feeling insecure. We feel unworthy. Why would God want to do this for me? Sometimes when we’re praying, it’s like our hearts and minds are already made up. It’s hopeless. It’s over.

In Hebrews, it says to come boldly before the throne. Boldly. Courageously. It doesn’t say come timidly or fearfully. I once heard someone say they felt God was urging them to ask for bigger things. To expect more. As Warren mentioned, this doesn’t mean we should pray to win the lottery and expect it to happen. Or ask for a Ferrari and expect it to appear in our driveway. But it does mean we should be bold when we pray. After all, He is the God of the impossible. What’s impossible for us as humans is never impossible for God. He’s unstoppable. He’s the ruler of all.Adobe Spark(14)

On the flip-side of praying for something we consider highly important or pressing, I believe we should also pray and talk to God about the simple things. It may seem strange, but God cares about every aspect of our lives. He loves us. He wants to know us. For example, if I’m feeling under the weather and there’s something I need to get done, I ask God to help me. It took a little getting used to, and it felt even a little silly at times, but now I can’t imagine not doing those things.

So what is it you’d like to pray earnestly for? And what are you expecting? God doesn’t always say yes to everything, but he always answers.

Have you ever found yourself praying and you don’t notice any changes? I’ve been in that situation. It can be easy to get discouraged. As I’m starting to learn, those things all help grow our faith. We have to hold on even when it’s hard. We have to live by faith and not by sight.

If you didn’t hear Warren’s message yesterday, I’d encourage you to take a listen. The personal story he shared at the end was incredible. What a great testament to God’s faithfulness and how he develops us through difficult situations.

What Warren shared with you all inspired me to share something as well. And I tell you this because what happened to that young boy was a miracle. And what happened to me is a miracle as well. I want you to know miracles do happen! They absolutely do. I think there are more out there than we even know about. People might keep their stories to themselves because they worry others may respond the same way those inside the house did when Peter showed up. Don’t be afraid. We need to hear more of those amazing things. Continue reading